You can access yoga at any time, even if you think you may not have enough time or the flexibility for physical asana. Breathing can be your gateway to mindfulness and yoga. Within yoga, the control of your breath is also known as pranayama, an extremely powerful tool. Pranayama breathing techniques help us to access and utilize our breath in a way that can give us prana or life force energy. It has benefits such as: reducing stress, calming one’s nervous system, releasing toxins from our body, cleansing one’s bloodstream, decluttering the mind, and many more. But for purposes of this post, I want to return back to the simplicity of breathing and more so breathing consciously. When you focus on breathing, I mean, really stop for a second and let everything else go to feel the sensation of breathing in the air around you and then to exhale it slowly. Here, I think the magic begins to happen, breathing consciously has the power to bring you into the present moment, out of your monkey mind thoughts, and give you a taste of stillness that can be so desirable. Breath is central to all yoga and meditation practices, bringing it to your daily living in small bursts can be very impactful. (At the end of this post I have shared with you one simple pranayama/breathing technique.)
I want to share with you a moment in time when I really understood the power of the breath. One time my yoga teacher and I were having a conversation and when I was discussing a specific aspect of my life that troubled me, my speech and heartbeat got faster, while I was waving my hands in the air, and I was taking shallow breaths. All these changes were subtle yet impactful on moving my body from zero to sixty into a highly tense mode. My yoga teacher pointed this out to me and told me if I could train myself to breathe consciously in these stress-related moments, the impact would be positive. The lesson I learned was that when things are going wrong or are out of our control, sometimes there is not much we can do. But something I know I can always control is my breath. I can stop, take in deep breaths to nourish my body to reconnect with the universe. I realized breathing in such a way kept me in the present moment and in a better flow of life which is for my highest good. Forgetting to breathe consciously can send me into a frazzled and overwhelmed place where any solutions or options are much less likely to appear to me. Furthermore, the unconscious living in this moment would carry negatively into future moments. But if I can gain control at the present moment than it can help me be prepared, strong and grounded for the next thing to come.
Now for a short breathing exercise that we can use to bring a little bit more calmness and consciousness into any moment. The name of this pranayama is apa japa also known as breath awareness. I start many of my classes this way to help students tune out the noise they just came from and to tune into their bodies, into the room, and onto their mats.
- Begin seated cross-legged with your eyes closed and placing your palms down on your knees
- Now begin to notice the breath going in and out of your nostrils
- Feel the sensation of the breath and do not try to change it just yet and do not judge it
- Is it rapid, is it slow, is it deep, or is it shallow? Again, just notice.
- Now as you begin becoming aware, you will see that without even trying your breath will begin to deepen and get fuller
- Breathe this way for a few minutes. I generally like to do this for a couple of minutes.
- Slowly bring your attention back into your body, wiggle your toes and fingers, gently open your eyes to take in the room. Slowly move back into your day.
You can even set a 5-minute or 10-minute timer on your phone and practice this. Practicing it daily even if it’s just for a short while, you will see the benefits will begin to show themselves.