Learning How to Breathe
Ancient Yogis discovered thousands of years ago the link between our state of mind and the way we breathe. When we are in a state of relaxation we tend to have a longer, slower, and deeper inhale and exhale. When we are in a state of stress we tend to have a shorter, more shallow breath. Throughout our normal daily lives, we typically only use about 1/3 of our lung capacity.
In Yoga, the Sanskrit word, Prana, means life force, or our breath. Pranayama includes Breathing exercises which brings balance between the body and mind. It is believed to bring harmony and is crucial for relaxation.
So, how do we learn to breathe appropriately? If you have ever watched an infant lay on their back and breathe, you will notice their whole belly will rise and fall. This means they are using their full lung capacity. Somewhere along the way, we adults have lost that capability and most possibly, it’s turned into a habit. Think of the last time you were anxious. What was happening with your body. Did you have short shallow breaths that eventually lead to a panic attack where you felt you couldn’t breathe at all?
We could all take a lesson in watching an infant breathe. Think about the lungs hanging low into the abdomen and the need to fill them much like a balloon. Then imagine the need to fully exhale to release all the Carbon dioxide that has accumulated. Imagine, if you will, allowing the belly to expand so that the lungs can enlarge. Then on the exhale, allow the belly button to shrink back towards your spine while at the same time releasing tension in your body.
So, the next time you feel yourself becoming anxious and overwhelmed, take a moment to breathe. Breathe in through your nose at the count of 3 and out through your mouth at the count of 5 as if you are blowing out a candle. Allow a new healthy habit to emerge into your every day life. Namaste!