A while back a dear friend of mine started talking to me about the importance of breath and how we as humans do not breath properly and the effects that has on our bodies. I asked her to write something up about it because I felt like others could benefit from knowing this. Not just for every day things but also for trainers out there who might be working with athletes b/c as an athlete we know how essential our breathing is. Read the below info, share, and give it a try!
What would you say is the most fundamental necessity in life?
Most likely you answered water and/or food, but the truth is that it is our BREATH. Nothing is most essential to our well being than supplying our organs, and especially our brain with oxygen. However majority of people do not breathe properly. Actually it’s very difficult for me to stumble upon someone who knows exactly how to breathe.
And what if I also told you that our breath has a direct connection to our emotions and our mood. The typical shallow breath that mostly occurs in the upper chest supplies the brain and the nervous system with inadequate short burst of oxygen, which results in agitations, anxiety, nervousness, and a whole variety of other non-pleasant feelings. Most likely every time you have find yourself in a heated argument, or even angry at the person who just cut you off in traffic you will find that your breath becomes more shallow, concentrates in the upper part of your chest and lungs, and increases in speed to compensate for the shortage in oxygen supply. This is a very subtle change and most likely you have not noticed it before, but try paying attention next time.
Just like any other bad habit, improper breathing can be changed and improved with some effort and practice. I would like to introduce you to a breath control method which has been practiced by yogis for thousands of years and has the ability to improve your life, your mood, and your overall well being quite tremendously. I refer to this breath control as “Tension Release Pranayama” and I have thought it to many of my yoga students. Pranayama is a Sanskrit word (Sanskrit is the ancient language of India, and the language most often used in yoga). Pranayama means “extension of the prana or breath”, and more accurately translated prana means “life force”, so essentially this breath control practice is a practice of the “extension of the life force”.
This method should be applied in any situation where you find yourself agitated, anxious, nervous, angry, or in general emotionally effected in any way. Like with anything in life, it will take a bit of practice to become fully comfortable with it so I suggest to you begin to practice at least once a day on a regular basis. And to begin with I would recommend trying it out in a safe and familiar environment where you will not be interrupted by any people, technology, or even pets.
This “Tension Release Pranayama” is proven to calm the central nervous system and therefore calm the mind, as well as massage the internal organs and therefore improves digestion as an added bonus as well.
1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position either on the floor or in a chair with your spine straight and your arms hanging comfortable by your side and fingers pointing down towards the ground.
2. Close your eyes (this helps to withdraw all the senses)
3. Begin to notice your breath. Becoming completely aware of the entire breath cycle (inhale & exhale) Noticing if one is longer than the other. Do not try to change or alter your breath at this point, but just spend at least several breath cycles just observing the quality of your breath at that moment.
4. Start following your inhale and your exhale as they go through you body and imagine the oxygen flowing in and out of your internal organs. Notice if the breath flow feels stuck in any place of the body.
5. Now take one of your palms and place it on your abdomen (near or right below your bellybutton)
6. Begin to elongate the inhales, forcing the air to fill your abdomen, and on the exhale slowly and with control contract the abdomen back in towards the spine. Follow the breath into and out of your abdomen for several breath cycles.
7. Once you have the hang of this let your hand hang by your side again
8. Now begin to repeat the following intention silently to yourself with each inhale “I consciously with to release” , and on the exhale “negative psychic tension” (I encourage you to begin with this intention until you feel completely comfortable with the practice after which you may replace it with your own intention if you want to)
9. Once you feel comfortable with the intention begin to attach the visualization of inhaling white, clean, and pure air with each “I consciously wish to release” and exhaling thick, black smoke through your arms and fingers down onto the floor with each “negative tension”.
10. Both the intentions and visualizations are extremely important to this practice so continue to use the intension and visualization for at least several more breath cycles.
11. Once you feel that you are done, let go of any control you have of your breath and allow it to return to a normal automatic state again.
12. Take notice if anything has changed from when you completed step 3 & 4. By now your breath should have slowed down and become deeper and most likely you’ll find yourself feeling much calmer and lighter than when you first sat down to do the practice.
I recommend that you do this practice in just that order with as much concentration as possible for the first 5-10 times you try it. Once you feel very comfortable with it you may begin to practice it in other areas like your car, office, in line at the grocery store or just about anywhere else. Eventually you will become an expert at breath control and will find yourself becoming aware of very subtle changes in your breath when ever anyone or anything is provoking an emotional response from you. By being aware of this you’ll be able to do a couple rounds of breath control and regain your composure, as well as control of your state of mind so you’ll be better able to handle the situation instead of allowing your emotions get the best of you. But most importantly it will make you much more aware of your overall breathing and will hopefully allow you to breath deeper and fuller so you can supply your internal organs with more oxygen and in turn improve your overall well being.
-Madlena Ivy, CYT