Shallow, deep, slow, rapid… How you breathe will determine your mood, level of vitality, and health. The breath is like a barometer. Notice the connections between your thoughts, emotions and your breath ? Yoga is a very effective stress reduction and relaxation tool. The practice directs the mind to attend to the body and the breathing in the present moment.
Learn to breathe! You will literally change your energy. Of course, we all breathe automatically but how well do you breathe ? How well does it serve you ? Did you know you could learn how to breathe properly ? In our yoga classes, we use breath techniques to learn to quieten the mind, control our energies and feelings. If you are feeling anxious or worried, we can choose a particular breath and practice to let go and release. We can also choose a breath to energise ourselves or cool ourselves in the summer when it is hot ! This is called “Pranayama” or breath control.
When we are rushing around or simply feeling stressed, tired, anxious, or fearful, we instinctively hold on to our breath. When it becomes chronic, it is not good news for your wellbeing. Your body slows down, energy stagnates and you mind becomes agitated or foggy. You reinforce the feeling of panic and anxiety. A vicious circle. Have you ever heard someone says: “Take a deep breath…” when in fact, you really need to breathe out first to release the pent-up tension and energy within.
So Why learn to breathe ? Some yogic wisdom…
The portal through which we can begin to calm our anxious energy to transcend to higher states of being is found in our breath. Our breath and emotional state form a feedback loop.
When we experience mental or emotional stress, such as when we are anxious or sleep deprived, our breathing becomes compromised. When our breathing becomes compromised, our whole state of wellbeing becomes compromised. The breath is the bridge between body and mind. You can learn how to control your breath to influence your mind and energy.
Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutra, a collection of pearls of wisdom on yoga, was an Indian sage, who knew what science has now proven: controlled, deep breathing shifts our nervous system by activating the calming, regenerating, and relaxing response whilst lowering stress levels.
“Calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or retention of the breath” Yoga Sutra 1.34, Book 1
Controlled, prolonged exhalation has been shown to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of our nervous system responsible for our “rest-and-digest” relaxation response. When we are in a stress or panic mode, our breath becomes quick and shallow.
In any situation, let us remember to always come back to the breath as our anchor. We can learn to control our breath for different desired effects, energy, balance, relaxation. Today, I would like to introduce you to a way to just find some peace and calm within to discover your inner sanctuary.
So how do we calm down our nervous system to find relaxation and stillness ? How do we release tension from within the mind & body ? The first step is your breath. Let me share with you a short breathing exercise, which we do regularly at the start of our yoga class to relax and let go.
Choose a quiet space and ensure no-one will disturb you. Switch off your phone and other devices for 5 min or so. Sit or lie down comfortably. I prefer to lie down with my legs bent, feet hip width distance apart to allow my pelvis to be in neutral and my lower back to relax completely. Your neck should be in line with your spine.
Now, close your eyes. One hand on your heart and one on your belly. Take the time to arrive. Feel your breath and body. Notice any movement in your chest or belly as you naturally breathe in and out. Settle into your space and allow yourself to just be.
Relaxing Breath Exercise: Breathe in for a count of 4. Pause. Exhale for a count of 6 or 8. Exhale is longer than Inhale. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth very slowly, keeping your face and jaw relaxed. As you slowly exhale and let go, feel your shoulders, neck and back gently melting away. Try this for 5 min or longer.
Feel free to adjust ratios of breath to suit you, shorter or longer. Be comfortable. Don't force or strain your breath. Breathing in and out through your nose is traditional. Personally, for this exercise, I like to breathe in through the nose and slowly out through the mouth as if you were breathing out through a straw. Allow the magic to slowly happen !!
Become the observer. Breathe in, breathe out, let go. Repeat. Notice what you notice.
At the end of this exercise, slowly start to move your fingers and toes and take a nice long body stretch and yawn. Stay still for a moment, notice the effect of your breath practice. Perhaps you feel refreshed and calmer with a sense of space within your body.
Now feel free to move your body freely, taking any shapes, poses you feel like instinctively before bringing your knees to the chest rocking from side to side before slowly getting up to sitting and standing. Take a few steps and see how you feel. Notice any difference ?
This is a great technique to ground yourself and calm down at any times. It is particularly beneficial to practice before going to bed for a good night sleep. Practice indoor or outdoor. When the sun shines, you can practice this breath even when walking - with eyes open, once you are used to it. As a yoga teacher, I have practiced this many times with myself and my students. They always come out feeling good and smiling. It is a ritual at the start of each of our classes.
Feel the magic happens. Feel the transformation. Our body is always talking to us. Reset your nervous system, improve your breathing, lower your stress level and feel good !
For weekly online classes, check my website. In the summer, I offer outdoor yoga classes. Yoga and nature all in one, simply the best. If interested, in either, please just contact me.
Lesson in French & English. I offer beginners yoga, dynamic yoga and relaxation yoga with somatics. Choose what suits you best. To find out more, visit www.yogawithbelle.co.uk
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