Few people realize how powerful breath work is. Pranayama means breath control or life force. It is usually easier to remember to be mindful of the breath in settings such as a yoga class when you are consistently reminded. However, coming back to the breath throughout your day, especially when feeling stressed or tired can be extremely beneficial to your over all state of mind and well being.
Slowing the breath down engages the parasympathetic nervous system. In times of stress our breath usually becomes rapid and shallow. Breathing slowly raises the carbon dioxide level in the blood and the parasympathetic nervous system begins to calm the body. Start to become aware of your breathing patterns and take the opportunity to work into your own pranayama practice.
Here are a few breathing exercises to work into your daily routine:
- If feeling anxious, focus on lengthening your exhales. For example, inhale on a count of four, exhale on a count of eight. Find your comfortable breath capacity when inhaling and double your exhale.
- If feeling fatigued, slow your breath so that the count of the inhalation and exhalation are the same length (in for 4, out for 4 etc.). Find a gentle pause at the top of the inhalation without forcing or straining the breath and a gentle pause and the bottom of the exhalation. Feel the cycle of the breath move through you like an ocean ascending and descending.
Try and bring breath awareness into your daily life and see the positive influence this simple yet effective practice can have on your mind and body.