If you’ve been to any of my classes you’ll know I talk about the breath rather a lot! As do most yoga teachers.
There are good reasons for this; attention on the breath keeps you present and therefore allows for a mindful practice, but also, keeping a focus on and a control of your breath gives you control of the energy in your body and not just during a yoga class…
It’s fairly simple – when we feel anxious we tend to take rapid, shallow breaths focusing mainly on the nose and throat. Your oxygen intake rises, blood pressure increases and your body begins to become ready to take action. If this continues then the body starts to produce adrenaline to help kick start our ‘fight or flight’ mode and we drop into a stressed state. This is great if we do need to react quickly to save ourselves from danger but if we feel unable to remove ourselves from this state then adrenaline along with another hormone called cortisol starts to take their toll on the body. Negative affects can include suppressed immune system, increased blood pressure, acne, insomnia and it can even contribute to obesity.
It’s easy to feel helpless as anxiety takes over but the secret is in the breath and harnessing its power.
I’m going to suggest a simple breathing techniques which helps with anything from feeling anxious in the dentist’s chair, to job interview nerves to calming down after a traumatic event. It can also help you to get to sleep!
The complete yogic breath.
This can be done either seated or lying down, just make sure that you are comfortable first. When you breathe you are going to keep the mouth closed and breathe in and out of the nostrils. If the nose is blocked then open the mouth just a fraction to help breathe fully.
- Take a deep breath into the belly, making it expand as you inhale like a balloon filling up.
- Then the lower ribs begin to fill with air expanding in the same way.
- Finally the breath reaches the collar bones which also move outward as you breath in.
- Now you exhale from the collar bones, then lower ribs and finally the belly.
- Repeat. Try to make the breaths long, deep and with control.
You can take just a few breaths like this or keep it going for as long as you feel comfortable. Maybe you can visualize the breath going in and out of the body, it can be affective to see the torso as a completely empty vessel and the air filling it up from the bottom to the top like a glass being filled with water and then emptying out like someone is sucking water out of the glass with a straw so it empties from the top to the bottom.
It’s so incredibly simple and so incredibly powerful. Changing the breath in this way can alter your physical and mental state within minutes.
It’s a great technique to teach to children, maybe even do it together, if they see you doing it and using it to help yourself then they will also take it on board.
It’s a fantastic tool to have at your fingertips and it’s always there with you no matter where you go!
Now sit down for one minute, close your eyes and just breathe…