The full yogic breath is a fundamental technique of prāṇāyāma. By mastering it you will also master diaphragmatic breathing, and in so doing will combat anxiety and stress responses.
The picture is of a kumbha. This is a traditional pot used in rituals in India. The full yogic breath invites you to imagine that you are a kumbha from the base of the diaphragm to the pelvic floor, and stacked upon that kumbha is another kumbha from the base of the diphragm to the throat. (There is another one from the throat to the crown but that is not a part of this practice.)
Begin to learn this practice lying down. Your stacked pots will be lying on their sides. Take constructive rest position with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Find the postion for the feet where they are hip width apart, and the weight is evenly distributed through the feet. The knees neither want to cave in nor flop out. There is the minimum of effort to stay this way. In this position your belly is relaxed and any tendency to hold tension in the tummy (all too prelavent a holding pattern) is released as much as we can. If this is a distinct holding pattern for you, do somatic exercises for the red light reflex.
Later on you will begin to do this breath in a seated postion, but best place to learn it is in this constructive rest position.
What follows are basic instructions. A qualified teacher with competency in prāṇāyāma will be able to give you expert guidance. Yes, it is OK to ask the teacher if they have competency in particular practices.
In this position just take a minute or two just to notice your breath.
We are going to start with the lower pot first. Place your hands on your lower abdomen. First explore breathing into the hands and getting the belly to swell. When you feel good about that add another dimension by trying to also breathe into the sacrum. then see if you can get the pelvic floor to swell with the in breath. see if you can have a sense of breathing into the hips. When you have this lower portion "filling up" see if you can also get a sense of filling the upper portion of your lower pot, right up into the base of the ribs.
Now let go of practising with the lower pot. Just allow your breath to flow naturally for awhile before proceeding.
We are now turning our attention to just the upper pot, from the base of the ribs to the throat. You might like to place your hands on the sides of the ribs. Breathing in feel the breath expand into the sides of the ribs. Continue to explore the dimensions of the upper pot, back, front, sides and the right into the upper part of the pot under the collar bones.
After some time exploring the upper pot let it go and breathe naturally for a while.
The full yogic breath has a sequence.
EXHALE - reverses the direction
Don't hurry, and certainly don't hurry from inhale to exhale, or from exhale to inhale. There are natural pauses between these two phases of breath, allow them to happen.
Keep practicing, a maximum of 15 minutes. After you have completed the practice of full yogic breathing, mindfully notice everything that is here, how the natural breath is now, how your state of mind is.
Full yogic breath is a practice that is safe to do for almost everybody. However if you have some chronic holding in your body or breath patterns you may find it difficult and it could cause anxiety.
With any prānāyāma practice, if you find that you are becoming anxious, let it go, or go back to the level of practice that you found OK and stay there. If you make no progress, consult a qualified and competent teacher (competencies in prāṇāyāma).
(Author: Tina Shettigara)