Breathing exercises are used to balance the mind, body, and emotions, and prepare the yoga practitioner for meditation. The disciplined and faithful practice of pranayama (proper breathing) allows one to control the prana, vital energy, which is essential in order to control the mind. At Baltimore Yoga Village, in traditional hatha yoga classes, we learn breathing first, because proper breathing is the key to combatting many of life’s physical, emotional, and mental struggles.Full Yogic Breath is a three part breath, in which the abdominal, thoracic, and clavicular areas of the trunk expand as one inhales and contract as one exhales. Babies naturally breathe this way, as do most people when they are asleep. The breath itself is rhythmic, calming, and nourishing. The abdominal area seems to rise and fall, as the diaphragm muscle lengthens and contracts.However, as we grow into adults, the fight or flight posture (hunched upper back and shoulders) solidifies in our bodies, our breath becomes shallower, and we use only the top portion of our lungs to breathe. Full Yogic Breath is an essential component of every yoga practice, because it engages the body in deep inhalation and exhalation techniques so that the blood is fully oxygenated, internal organ systems thoroughly cleansed, and the mind relaxed. It is an essential part of daily life as well, in order to live a balanced temperment.Have you ever noticed your breath at the moment when a small animal jumps out in front of your car, or when you hear an unnerving sound at night, or when someone suprises you with some unfortunate news? A quick inhalation, a gasp of breath enters the lungs. Even as you move on unharmed, how often do you consciously exhale that moment’s suprise? Many of us take in this panicked breath several times per day but never exhale completely, allowing only for a shallow breathing for the rest of the day, and a habitual shortened breath over time. Our bodies remain tensed, and we subconciously carry the stress of the past throughout the day and into our relationships. Next time you feel feelings of drained of energy, mild sadness, and anxiety, take note of your breath. You will likely find that the exhalation is very short in comparison to the inhalation; in fact, you may find that you are barely exhaling at all. Exhaling completely is the key to “taking a deep breath”, and an easy way to feel more energized and relaxed. Learning to exhale completely is the beginning of learning to breathe the full yogic breath.In traditional hatha yoga classes, taught at Baltimore Yoga Village, students learn to deepen breath using age-old breathing techniques like full yogic breath, “kappalabhati”, and “analoma viloma”, so that over time and with practice, breath control becomes a tool for stilling the rapidly shifting mind and emotions, and preparing the student for meditation.