During a hot yoga class, numerous aspects come together in order for practitioners to experience health benefits. There is the heated room, allowing muscles to stretch more than usual, the poses that compress and extend muscles, and the dedication of the participants to hold each pose to increase their strength and flexibility. But a potentially overlooked component of hot yoga is breathing. During each session there are “pranayama” exercises, meaning “breathing techniques”. During the day individuals tend to neglect their breathing and only use their lungs at a limited capacity. This can lead to lower amounts of energy and frustration, but fortunately hot yoga permits people to pay attention to breathing to restore the oxygen in their bodies and attain a more restful state of mind.
Breathing is obviously a common practice during the day, but pranayama shows individuals how to breathe properly. It allows people to take in more oxygen to be sent throughout the body for functioning as it expands the capacity of the lungs. Pranayama also aids in digestion and reduces toxins in the body, since with practice one’s metabolism and health will improve. Pranayama can be a mental exercise too, where people can gain better self control. You can increase your concentration so that you can stay relaxed during otherwise stressful situations and calmly choose a response.
Two of the types of pranayama utilized in hot yoga are the exhalation breath and the 80-20 breath. During the 80-20 breath practitioners should expand the area around their ribs as they breath in, letting the abdominal muscles extend as if they were going to hold their breath. The upper 20% of air can then be exhaled and inhaled again. Poses where back-bends are involved are a good time to use this breathing exercise, or in standing poses, as it assists with balance and energy.
The exhalation breathe is performed as it sounds. When you exhale during a pose, let yourself move more fully into the stance. Upon reaching your full capacity of moving into the pose, your breathing can return to normal. This breathing is good for forward-bending poses since it helps to relax the body, allows for proper rotation of the pelvis above the thighs, protecting the lower back from strain, and compressing the digestive organs for better digestion. Using these two breathing exercises will essentially train your lungs to function properly. They also work your abdominal muscles which provides you with better posture while standing.
Whenever you are breathing, whether in a hot yoga class or even taking a moment to yourself during the day, it is important to be mindful of what you are doing. If you focus on your breathing and allow yourself to move away from the rest of the world, you can connect more closely with yourself without external distractions. You can connect to your breathing and be fully present in the moment, letting your breathing cleanse you as when you are asleep. Through experiencing the positive effects of fresh and oxygenated blood in the body, you can return to the rest of the world and be prepared to act and share your mindful state with others.