Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.
“There’s something wrong”, one of my students said as she approached me after class. “My breath seems to catch whenever I start my inhale. I can exhale fine, but the inhale gets stuck in the beginning. What am I doing wrong?”
Actually, she isn’t doing anything wrong at all. In fact, the breath catching she’s observing on inhale is a sign she’s doing something right. My teacher, Ana Forrest, would go as far as to say this is a win.
When your breath is catching, it’s a sign you are breathing in deeper. Picture a belt with a well-worn groove in one belt hole. If you try to pull the belt to the next hole, it will catch for a moment on your usual belt notch. The same is true for the breath. When you begin deepening your breath, at first the breath will catch at the place where you are used to stopping your inhale. As you practice and your breath gets more expansive, the inhale will begin to smooth out.
Breath-catching is also a sign you’re starting to breathe into an area of the body that you have a hard time accessing with the breath. In my own practice, I have a hard time getting out of my head and breathing into my heart. Particularly in any kind of backbends, I would find my inhale getting repeatedly stuck and shallow. Again and again, I’d try to smooth out my jagged, abrupt inhales. I was convinced that I clearly was getting something wrong. Yet through a lot of guidance by some caring teachers and assistants, I grew to learn that my constricted inhales were a source of information. It was a sign that I had some kind of emotions locked up in an area that I’d blocked myself away from. Like a pick-axe chipping into a iceberg, continually working on breathing into a spot helped me start to release it. Without judgement. Just breath.
So should you find your inhales catching in your practice, congratulate yourself. You’re bringing in more breath and life.