For me, breathing work is as important as physical work in a Yoga practice.
Learning to breathe can change your life for real.
The simple act of taking a deep and conscious breath makes you feel better instantly.
I usually start or finish my yoga classes with a few minutes of pranayama. It takes a while to get there, to connect, or to get the benefits of physical practice. And by paying attention to breath is very easy.
In Yoga class we learn to breathe while moving, or during a static posture, or in a meditative state. Breathing is the basis for mindfulness and appreciation of the simple aspects of life. Using your breath to be more conscious in the moment can agitate and revitalize your being state, creating clarity and concentration by soothing or stimulating the nervous system. Learning to breathe can literally make you happier!
How does it work in our bodies?
We are the only species on the planet that can deliberately modify the respiration speed. Other aquatic mammals can hold their breath, but physically changing the pattern of inhalation and exhalation of the nervous system, is specific in humans.
The vagus nerve is a long nerve that extends from the base of the brain, through the front of the spine and into the diaphragm (the muscle that controls breathing). It is responsible for our sympathetic “fight or flight” mode, as well as our parasympathetic mode of relaxation, “rest and digestion”. If our breathing is in the upper part of our chest and it is fast and tense, the diaphragm tightens the vagus nerve, sending the signals to the brain that we need to “prepare for action”. However, when we take long, slow and controlled breaths from the abdomen, it is as if the diaphragm gives the vagus nerve a pleasant calming massage and sends signals to the brain to relax the body.
And when you manage to breathe consciously …
A prolonged breathing session can be profoundly transformative.
It can make you feel more cheerful and bright easily. It helps to revitalize your whole being, to calm your nervous system, to relax or to activate you.
A conscious breathing session in any of its techniques is a precious opportunity to transform your state.
Little by little, we will go deeper into different techniques of conscious breathing.
Below I propose a very simple and effective exercise to calm the mind and focus on breathing.
Simple breathing exercise
You can stand, sit or lie down, with your eyes open or closed, indoors or outdoors. This breathing technique can be done anywhere, at any time. Here we go….
Observe how you are breathing. Fast or slow? Deep or shallow? Do you breathe in your chest or belly? Are you breathing through your mouth or your nose? Just watch for a few seconds.
Start now to inhale and exhale through the nose. Reduce speed a little Breathe deeply and let your belly to rise and fall (like a balloon when it fills up and when it empties).
Start mentally counting seconds: Inhale: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4. Exhale: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4. Try to keep the focus on breathing for 5 minutes or more while you mentally count.
This basic breathing technique can alter your state of being. And it’s so simple that you can apply it anytime, anywhere.
To me it seems a wonderful and simple tool available for everyone. It is easy even for children to learn it.
Photo: Gabrielle Striiewski