A New Kind of Breathing?

The last 30 days have been one of personal transformation for me in that I have discovered hot yoga. It is something I have wanted to do for years but have hesitated because I don’t have good balance and it always seemed like only something 20 year-old size 2’s indulged in. I won’t bore you with all of the physical and mental gains doing 20 classes in the last 30 days has done for this middle-aged body, but I will share that the greatest benefit I’ve discovered in the last month is a completely new way of breathing.

Now, it might seem rather ironic that a vocal coach who makes her living teaching singers and public speakers how to breathe has twigged on to a completely new way of breathing but yogi breathing is definitely something entirely different than the breathing required to act, sing or public speak.

Everything in yoga hinges on the breath. In singing, our goal is always to fuel each phrase with plenty of air drawn in quickly deep down into the full lung capacity. In yoga, this breath is drawn in through the nose and exhaled also through the nose, while making a “snor-ey” sound out through the nose – otherwise referred to as “pranayama”. Every pose is governed by the inhale or the exhale and every transition waits to begin with the breath.

As in singing, the quality of the voice is governed by the quality of the breath; shallow breathing equals a shallow, weak, uncommitted sound. In yoga, incorrect breathing equals a lack of control over the rest of the body and the result is poses that are weak and ungrounded. This much is similar, but the long sustained inhalations and exhalations through the nose are the exact opposite of those required in singing where we often don’t have the luxury of more than an eighth note to replenish our air supply and carry on with the phrase. For this reason, in singing, the breath must be rapidly (and silently) sucked into the body through a wide, open throat as though it were water falling into your belly.

In yoga, the longer the breath is on the inhale and exhale, the better as you allow this breath to guide your muscles to move micro-amounts to adjust your posture. Both types of breathing are about control, it’s just an entirely different way of getting there. Namaste.