I was supposed to sit and write a newsletter that was already overdue. I wanted to write about how Yoga Therapy can help with weight loss. When I sat at the desk, I knew that the task would be challenging. I had had two delicious cups of gingersnap oat milk latte, and for me, that was one cup too much. My body was slightly shaking, and my heart racing. It wasn't the first time in my life that I made such a mistake. The seasonal coffee drink that I got yesterday on sale at Green's Market was irresistible.
Being a practical yoga person, I closed my eyes, brought attention to my somewhat crazy heartbeat, and then to my breath. I watched my breath for a few moments, and then I began practicing my favorite 3-part yogic breathing. From the outside, it just looked as if I was sitting with my eyes shut. Inside me, a mini-tornado was transforming into a gentle breeze. In less than 5 minutes, my heartbeat felt normal, the restlessness was gone, and I was ready to concentrate on my writing.
I reflected then on how often I use my breath as an emergency tool.
I thought of a few times when I had to drive from yoga classes in the city late at night, and I decided to have an espresso not to fall asleep while driving. The drive was safe, but then I was too awake to go to bed and had to wake up in the morning. Regardless of my level of wakefulness, a few minutes of conscious breathing, and I was always able to fall asleep.
I thought of the instances when I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling anxious, and worried I wouldn't be able to fall asleep. Breathing also worked like magic then.
All the times when I wanted to concentrate on preparing for a class or do some other assignment, but my mind was all over the place - a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing would always bring me to where I was supposed to be.
Anytime I get agitated, confused, or angry; it's always breath that comes to the rescue.
In my yoga and yoga therapy practice, I take breathing techniques very seriously. That's where I always start. The benefits are countless. I love to listen to my clients' reporting how learning how to breathe properly literally changed their lives. And it's true. It does change people's lives. So I decided to postpone the weight loss topic and pay tribute to the breath.
Even though breathing sustains our life, we often don't give it a second thought. But we should.
Did you know that the way you breathe affects your level of energy, stress level, sleep, emotional responses to your thoughts, and may even influence your physical health?
There is an entire branch of Yoga called Pranayama (which means control of the life-force energy), where we use specific breathing techniques for various purposes. There are exercises to help balance energy, increase stamina, focus, calm the mind, reduce anxiety and insomnia; you name it! Very advanced yogis can even regulate their heartbeat with the breath.
Breath is a bridge between our body and mind. It's the only function of the autonomic (independent) nervous system that we can control. The mind will influence the breath, but the breath can also affect the mind.
Learning how to regulate our breath can help in quieting the mind, reducing stress, and improving our overall mental and physical wellbeing. It's not complicated. We can all do it.
I would like you to stop reading for a moment, close your eyes, and do this exercise.
Notice how you are feeling - physically and mentallyNow bring your attention to your breath. Check the length of the inhalations and exhalations and the movement of your chest and abdomen. For a few moments, just watch without judgment, without changing anything — Marvel at the miracle of life. And then, inhale and exhale through your nose 10-15 times. Try to extend your exhalations, so they are a bit longer than your inhalations. You can count the seconds in your head. Let go of controlling and counting the in- and out-breaths, and again notice how you feel.
There is a great chance that today, reading, you were calm and relaxed to start with, so try this simple method the next time you feel you need to calm down or simply reset.
Please, feel free to share your experience.