How to take control of any situation.
This is a wonderful post by our Yoga teacher Phoebe Carden. She shows us that through correct breathing, we can take control of our state, no matter what life deals us. Enjoy this quick read.
You’ve probably heard your yoga instructor talk about breathing a lot during class. You’re also probably pretty sure you’ve got that covered, breathing is easy. It’s not even conscious, you don’t have to even think about it right? WRONG. Harnessing the power of conscious breath will honestly change your life, learning to work with the breath and to use it to cleanse, calm and invigorate the body is a huge element to the practise of yoga and we call this breathwork Pranayama. Pranayama is the formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force. There are so many amazing breathing exercises we work with however I always find the simplest ones to be the most effective. I like to begin most classes with some centering breathwork which is often as simple as just finding a comfortable seat, closing down the eyes or finding a soft gaze point and just deep breathing to the count of 4, for both the inhale and the exhale. Even this very straight forward exercise will begin to calm the nervous system and centre your mind and body, you can do it anywhere! At home, at work (you can do this as MANY times as you like during the day… You’ll be more relaxed and grounded and your colleagues will thank you for it). One important anatomical thing to note that not many people know, is that in order for any breathwork to have the desired effect, you need to be breathing diaphragmatically. Google the diaphragm muscle and have a look where this sits in your body, it’s a large strip of muscle placed below the lungs. When we inhale deeply, this muscle curves into the shape of a smile, pushing out lower internal organs down and causing the stomach to expand. When we exhale the muscle and internal organs return to their original placement and the belly contracts back toward the lower spine. This is how you know you’re breathing with purpose and intention and this is the kind of breath that will calm the nervous system and help centre the mind. When the breath is shallow, this rise and fall can be seen in the chest rather than in the belly, this kind of breath tells the nervous system that we are in trouble and sends it into ‘fight or flight’ mode. We have the power to switch from that mode (a sympathetic nervous system) to our ‘rest and digest’ mode (parasympathetic nervous system), just by using this breathing technique. Our bodies desperately need to be placed in a parasympathetic state as often as possible so that the cells can rebuild and our organs can recover, generally so that the body can operate at optimum functionality! So next time you’re lying awake at night unable to drift off to sleep, or you’re perched up on your office chair feeling overwhelmed by your overflowing email inbox, you’re late to a social function or you’re just generally feeling a bit stressed - notice the breath. Are you breathing into the chest? Are you breathing at all? Switch to a deep diaphragmatic breath for 4 minutes and notice how your attitude starts to change. Change your physicality first, then notice how the mind changes, notice how all of a sudden you’re feeling a little less overwhelmed and a little more capable of dealing with the day ahead! That’s all for now - though it’s really just the beginning, there are many amazing breathing exercises to explore so next time your yoga instructor begins to talk through one, be sure to take note and remember them so you can take that away from the mat and into your everyday life as a tool to centre yourself in any situation.
Join Phoebe on the mat every Thursday at 6:15pm. Go to our classes page to book your space.