I have enjoyed a regular yoga practice for many years now, although I may not spend countless hours in studio anymore, nor am I trying to perfect handstand, I still regularly role out my mat for my slow and steady asana practice. Whilst my asana practice (the physical postures) has changed slightly, I have maintained my daily pranayam (breathing) exercises and I know that it is in fact simple breathing techniques that can transform worlds as much as strengthening and stretching the body. Put the 2 together and you have the dynamic duo for a healthy body and mind.
So how does breathing actually transform worlds? It may sound too simple to be true, but the breath is like a direct messenger to our nervous system. Think back to the last time you felt anxious/stressed/shit scared. What happened? Chances are your breath got short and shallow and hello flight or fight mode. You are in a state of anxiety which if you know how that feels is not so pleasant. What happens to many of us, is over time, we find this becomes our normal state of being. We are constantly in fight or flight mode, our breath is short and shallow and we are not moving oxygen to vital parts of the body. Of course this reaction, stress I think is the medical term, creates many physical and mentally states that leave us feeling depleted, depressed and in some cases at risk of major illness.
The alternative to this flight or fight mode and heightened states of anxiety is to show our nervous system what calm looks and feels like. This can be as simple as taking a few long, deep breaths. Try it now if you like….sit up straight, shoulders relaxed, and take a long deep inhale and then slow exhale through the nose and notice. Did you use your belly? Did your side ribs expand? Try again. Inhale through the nose and as you inhale, allow the belly to expand. Count to 3 for the inhale and then allow the exhale to just come naturally.Repeat this 3-5 times. How does it feel? Don’t stress over getting it right or stuffing it up but simply feel your body and notice what state it is in. You can even through in a couple of shoulder rolls prior to the breathing in order to help relax the body.
If you notice you are feeling agitated or stressed, or perhaps a little emotional. Simply sit and breath. Take your attention in to the body and notice sensation and you will be surprised at how quickly you will find you can restore to a more “normal” or less stressed state of being. You can do it anywhere, anytime, sitting in traffic jams, whilst your kids scream, while your idiot colleague bangs on about something ridiculous – whatever the situation that triggers your out of alignment mode, simply breathing can transform your world.