Inhale. Pause. Exhale.
Five years ago, I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training. How I got into that training is a bit of a long story you can read on my personal blog, but one of the main reasons I kept with teaching (and my personal practice) is the emphasis on breathwork.
For many reasons, life is stressful. And, stressful times often prompt us to tense up and stop breathing in a regular pattern. I’m sure anyone who lived through 2020 and has navigated 2021 can attest to that. The good news is, pending that you’re fairly healthy, you can almost always restart your breathing pattern and initiate a fuller cycle of breathing rhythms.
Unsure where to start? Yoga can help.
There are so many different styles and forms of yoga. Some flows are very athletic and fast-paced, while many others focus on slowing down to relax. All are valid and any can be helpful in creating a positive experience for your body, mind, spirit and heart.
According to yogic traditions, there are 8 limbs within yoga that contribute to a well-rounded practice. One of them, pranayama, completely focuses almost entirely on breathing.
Inhale. Pause. Exhale.
By no means am I a yoga expert! But, I do know that regularly focusing on how my inhales and exhales relate to the movement of my body — whether through intentional yoga flows or just taking a quick moment in my day to pause — has greatly increased the awareness of my mental, physical, spiritual and emotional state and needs.
When teaching, I really try to focus on breath — whether a pre-recorded flow on YouTube or an in-person studio class. I love to remind my students that if they are breathing, they are technically doing yoga. At its heart, yoga is not about creating a “cool” shape with your body or standing on your head. Plus, if you aren’t completing a full inhale and exhale as you transition or even hold a pose, you 1. Probably won’t be super successful in your physical stance, 2. Probably won’t be thinking positive thoughts and 3. May begin a cycle of negative self-talk. No one needs that type of negativity, especially if you did the hard work to just show up for a class.
Inhale. Exhale. Sometimes you just need a little reminder and encouragement. Keep up the good work yogi!
Make it a practice: Read the following technique first (loosely based on sama vritti or equal breathing), then try incorporating this simple breath and meditation moment into your daily practice.
Find a comfortable seated position — could be on the floor, criss-cross-applesauce style or even in a chair in which you can plant your feet firmly on the floor. Take a moment to get your wiggles out as you adjust your bottom to rest evenly on the surface. Lengthen your neck as you roll your shoulders away from your ears. Close your eyes or drop your gaze slightly down in front of you. As you find stillness through your body, exhale completely. Pause. Take a slow inhale through your nose and pause at the top of the breath briefly. Open your mouth and exhale completely. Pause. Repeat 3-5 times with audible, deep breaths. Then, continue resting in your stillness with a more natural/neutral breathing pattern for 8-10 rounds. You can count the breaths, or consider something you’re thankful for on each round of breathing.
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