We usually only notice our breath during extreme exercises (when you’re trying to catch it after a hard workout) or when your yoga teacher motions you to notice your breath. Did you know that practicing breathwork could complete your wellness routine?
Our Breathe is vital as without it, the complete lack of oxygen would bring us much discomfort let alone death. So why do we not pay more attention to our Breath? The practice of bringing your awareness to our Breath has long been practiced by yogis centuries ago and the benefits are innumerous. Some of the natural and immediate benefits that I have experienced are:-
- Deep breathing calms the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is activated in times of stress and anxiety. It is where the brain tells the body to prepare for the fight or flight response. Deep breathing will slow your heart rate down and in a matter of seconds your breath will communicate to your brain there is no danger which relaxes your muscles.
- Breathing lifts mood. Breathing raises levels of endorphins and lowers stress hormones.
- Breathing brings clarity and mindfulness to your mind-body connection. Practicing mindfulness breathing, you can increase clarity of where you hold your emotions and tension in your body. With practice, you can learn to breath into the tense areas of your body and areas where you hold your pain and release them out with every exhalation.
- Breathing boosts energy and stamina. Ever felt a surge of energy and stamina after a good run? That’s because you have increased your lung capacity bringing more oxygen to your body.
- Breathing increases oxygen in your blood. Deep breathing expanding your rib cage and abdomen allows you to bring in more oxygen to your lungs, thus, sending this wonderful oxygen to all parts of your body.
- Breathing strengthens the immune system.
- Promotes better sleep.
- Breathing normalises the heart rate and rhythm.
- Breathing helps to recharge our mind.
So, where do we start? How do we do this “Breathing” thing?
This “Breathing” thing is called “Pranayama”. Pranayamas are yogic breathing exercises that allow us to quickly increase our energy, release stress, improve our mental clarity, and improve our physical health.
Prana’ refers to the universal life force and ‘ayama’ means to regulate or lengthen. Prana is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish. It is what keeps us alive.
Pranayama is the control of prana through the breath. These techniques rely on breathing through the nostrils. There are many breathing techniques in yoga practices. Some common pranayamas include Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, and Nadi Shodana pranayama.
When practiced correctly, under the right supervision pranayama brings harmony between the body, mind and spirit, making one physically, mentally and spiritually strong.
Is Your Breath Deep Or Shallow?
Take a moment now to become aware of your breath – is it deep or shallow, smooth or choppy?
We can learn the art of breathing right by observing new born babies. Have you seen their stomach gently rising and falling as they breathe in and breathe out?
Most of us breathe from the chest – such shallow breathing sends a signal to the brain that all is not well–we are stressed. Alternatively, breathing from the abdomen boosts respiration, ensures a rich supply of oxygen to the brain and signals that all is well.
Observe your breath again, now that you’ve been thinking about it for a minute – has it got any longer or smoother?
A simple practice that you can do daily is a simple Deep Breathing technique. You can do this anytime of the day and works wonders in bringing you to deeper relaxation or in preparation for your meditation practices.
- Find a comfortable sitting position either on the floor cross legged, or sitting on a chair with your back away from the chair.
- Gently close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Inhale through the nose and breath out through your nose.
- Place your hands on your stomach, slightly interlacing the fingers so that the fingertips come to the second knuckle of the opposite hand. Your navel should feel cradled.
- Begin to breathe deeply into the navel, into the belly (Allow your belly to inflate like a balloon) to the count of 5. Hold your breathe for 5 counts and exhale to the count of 5. Hold your breathe for 5 counts. This is 1 cycle of inhalation and exhalation.
- Repeat the inhale and exhale cycle for 15-20 times as deeply as you can without discomfort or force.You will begin to sense a lighter and more relaxed mood!
Let me know your thoughts.