April’s Yoga Pose of the Month: The Full Yogic Breath, by Liz Jordon

Liz JordonGreetings everyone!   My name is Liz Jordon and I am excited to introduce ‘Yoga pose a month’ to the readership of Lehigh Valley Woman’s Journal.  As a person who leans into a full practice of yogic thinking, on-and-off my mat and in and out of my studio, this adventure is likely to grow and expand as I do; and it is my hope that it will do the same for you.  Yoga truly is for everyone; however it’s expression has everything to do with our individuality and our level of commitment.

Asana, a Sanskrit word that translates as “pose, form or position”, is the physical aspect of Yoga.  We invite the body to lengthen and release the hold that tension has on our backs, our joints, our muscles and our minds.  While we move, we breathe, so it seems only natural to begin with understanding the breath.

From the moment we are born, we breathe.  Our first action of life outside the womb is to inhale and our last is to exhale.  Gratefully, the act of breathing occurs without our need to make it happen.  The body essentially breathes itself and the very act of breathing in and breathing out supports every experience we have.

Observe the connection of breath as it relates to the patterns of breath during rest, activity, sleep and most importantly, in times of stress.  During times of stress, the breathing pattern changes.  This change alters the heart rate and together with the breath, this signals the brain to produce a hormone known as cortisol.  In a sustained state of stress, our breath patterns are generally short, shallow and often rapid.  The brain receives this as a message and does the job it is designed to do; it responds with chemicals. Cortisol is useful for the survival of an immediate threat or simply to get going in the morning.   However, one of the debilitating effects of the overproduction of cortisol is to weaken the immune system.

In the moment of conscious awareness to our breath pattern, we have the ability to override the automatic response to stress.  Upon noticing, we can choose to effectively alter the experience by changing the breath pattern from shallow to full and the brain receives the message   to go off high alert.  We influence the experience in our bodies.  When our mind is in a balanced state we have the ability to recognize the wisdom in the moment and respond with right action.

The moment we direct our attention and intention to our breath, we also begin the process of relaxing and releasing.

The Full Yogic Breath

In the full yogic breath – Dirgha Pranayama – also referred to as the complete breath, you will notice that breathing in – inhalation – occurs in three parts; we fill the base of the lungs, the mid –section or thoracic region and then the upper spaces of the lungs, just below the clavicles.

The Full Yogic Breath looks like this:

Part one, extend the abdomen to create space and draw air into the lowest part of the lungs.

Part two, expand the rib cage to allow the lungs to fill and

Part three direct the air to the space below the collarbones or clavicles.

Exhalation occurs in the same order.

Contract the abdomen to expel the air from the base of the lungs, through the rib cage and finally from the space beneath the clavicles.

As a beginning practice, it is useful to do this breath lying flat on the floor.  Once there is a sense of connection and smoothness to the full breath, it can be done sitting, standing or walking.

At first, the breath may feel mechanical as your body/mind puts the three parts together in the spaces of your lungs.  Keep in mind; with intention, time and practice, you will notice the breath rise and fall like a tide to the shore.

You might also experiment with counting your breath as a means to experience calm and mindful presence.  To count, simply say “I am breathing in – one.  I am breathing out – one.  I am breathing in – two.  I am breathing out – two.”  And so on.  Counting gives the mind a task and assists in moving from a state of racing, fearful or scattered thinking.  If you loose count, you return to the number one leaving frustration or judgment from being part of the experience.


The Full Yogic Breath pose

May you know the kind of length and peace found in a full and complete breath. I look forward to next month as we build the practice on the understanding of breathing and moving.

Always Peace

Always Love

Namaste ~ I bow to the Divine in you.

Liz Jordon is a certified Yoga teacher through Sivananda vedanta Centre and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga through the Chopra Center University in California.  She also received a 40-hour certificate in Trauma Sensitive Yoga.  Additionally, Liz is studying and working towards certification in Yoga Nidra/iRest, a meditative practice for deep relaxation and healing with Richard Miller.  Richard’s work is renowned for it’s efficacy with combat veterans and individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder. 
In addition to teaching from her space in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, Liz and two of her four sisters created Clear Path Wellness Lehigh Valley where they offer a program for women who have experienced sexual abuse and/or sexual assault. 
You can also find Liz teaching Yoga to students in after school programs and to athletes, compelling them to utilize the benefits of presence to mind, body and breath.  Liz has been a frequent co-host on the ESPN Lehigh Valley radio program The Water Cooler.  
Liz Jordon R-CYT