Breathing keeps us alive. That’s a baseline. If you want MORE THAN JUST STAYING ALIVE, read on.
HOW you breathe is directly connected to your physical and mental/emotional state. It WORKS BOTH WAYS; your state affects your breathing & your breathing affects your state.
When you’re at ease, relaxed, you breathe more deeply, slowly and evenly. Compare this with how you breathe when you’re upset, anxious, fearful; you may hold your breath and when you breathe it’s a shallow and more rapid breath.
Those are major examples of how your state can influence your breathing.
And then the other way around: your BREATHING AFFECTS YOUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL/EMOTIONAL STATE:
When you choose to breathe deep, slow, even breaths, in and out through your nose, you’ll steer your physical and mental state to become at ease and relaxed. Your deep breathing activates the parasympathetic part of your autonomous nervous system that sets the body in the “rest-and-digest” state. This is when your digestion works best, your immune system is strengthened and you “reload” your batteries to create long-term physical and mental health.
EXPLORE THE POWER OF YOUR BREATH – Exercise & Preparation for Pranayama (yogic breathing techniques to manage your life force energy)
Before you start working with any more or less advanced breathing techniques, I recommend that you first learn
- a) breath awareness, a practice to continue forever (don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it more and more)
- b) breathing in and out through the nose
- c) a relaxed, deep breathing, sometimes called diaphragmatic breathing
I go through this in the workshop Vinyasa Yoga – Building Blocks, as a preparation for Ujjayi pranayama. But you can benefit from this practice even if you never attend a yoga class. Here are some guidelines for c) DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING:
* this can be done in any position but easiest to lie down on your back
* relax your body, especially your abdomen and chest
* after a full exhale, start inhaling slowly through your nose, breathing in to the bottom of the lungs, your lower ribs and belly lift, continue inhaling so your chest expands and collarbones lift slightly
* gentle pause at the top of the breath (holding the breath in)
* exhale through the nose, allowing the collarbones, chest and abdomen to release/sink back into the body, at the end of the exhale push all the air out by drawing the abdomen in
* continue a few rounds (as many as you want) of inhale & exhale
* lie still, eyes closed, observe your physical and mental/emotional state