The Most Important Part of Yoga? Breathing.
It’s the most important thing we do every single day, and most people give it very little thought. But, when it comes to a productive yoga routine, settling your mind, relaxing, and centering yourself, breathing is one of the most important steps to master. But, it’s not just a matter of “in, out, in out.” And, if you can master your breath, you can be sure you’ll start to see the benefits in many areas of your life.
How does breathing help?
When we are actually aware of our breathing, something happens in our body. Most days, we don’t even think about it, and when we do things start to feel…wrong. It almost gets harder to breathe the more we think about it. But, in times of stress, what’s the first thing we do when we feel ourselves becoming frustrated? We take a deep breath. Think about how good taking a deep breath feels when you’ve been stressed or anxious. Did you just take one? But, when we do, it’s usually only for a moment, until we calm down, then we forget all about breaths again.
What if we were aware of each breath we took? What would happen if we kept focusing on it? Well, as it turns out, a lot.
When we turn inward and focus on each breath our minds begin to quiet. As we focus on our breaths, other thoughts are less likely to occur. Thoughts like- “Why did my boss say that? Was that bill due yesterday? Should I go on a diet?” All the thoughts that are constantly barreling through our brains take a back seat to our breaths so that, even if they come up, they are easily combatted.
Focusing on breathing also takes the focus off of other areas of our body where we may be holding stress. As soon as we begin to breathe, we loosen our hold on tension and we release tense parts of our body. Joint compression is eliminated and even our posture begins to improve.
All of these benefits become even more important as we begin a yoga practice, especially for beginners. Many beginner yoga sessions are simple lessons on how to focus on our breathing and how to use our breathing to move from one pose to another.
So, the next time you need to take a deep breath to settle your nerves, take it a step further.
How to Practice Breathing
It sounds silly to say you need to “practice breathing” but, as we mentioned above, most of us do it all the time without even thinking about it. And, of course, most of the time that’s a good thing. Life would be rough if we had to think about breathing all the time. And we’re not saying you should think about it all the time. But, you definitely should some of the time. And here’s how.
First, get comfortable. Place your hands on your stomach and your chest so you can feel exactly where the breath is coming from. You’ll want to focus on your breathing until you feel your stomach rise and fall more than your chest as this is how you get the most oxygen. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Breathe out twice as long as you breathe in.
Focus on each breath. Focus on the parts of your body that move when you breathe. Block out other thoughts and simply think about how each breath feels. Do this for 4-8 breath cycles a few times a day. Incorporating this breathing exercise into your routine can not only help calm your mind but breathing exercises have also been known to help with asthma, heart failure, and increases lung strength by stretching that tissue.
There are also other types of breathing that will come up in various yoga practices but simple deep breathing is a great place to start if you want to experience the many benefits of breathing.
So, next time you’re stressed, take a deep breath. And then another, and another…