Finding it hard to focus lately? Noticing you’re a little more highly strung than usual or possibly gaining weight and experiencing low energy reserves? The solution needn’t be a visit to the doctor, at least, not until you’ve tried this: the fourth in the series of practices that can help you live your best life and show up more powerfully and present.
We’re talking breathing – not the type of breathing your body and lungs autonomically do for you, we’re talking controlled or self-regulated breathing.
Science has ascertained that the shallower your breath, the less oxygen reaches the brain, and the harder it is to focus. Deep breathing regulates body temperature which is important as, if high temperatures persist, over time our cells do not get the oxygen and nutrients they need. This in turn can cause toxins to build up in the blood leading to oxygen-poor environments in our bodies, potentially becoming fertile “ground” for cancerous cells to evolve.
Introducing Super-Seven Practice #4: Pranayama
Yogic breathing is a joyful song that soothes, purifies, energizes and harmonizes our body, mind, and soul to create inner healing.
So, practice singing the song of pranayama.”
Pranayama is the yogic practice of focusing on the breath. In Sanskrit, prana means vital life force or life energy, and Yama means control. This form of breathing is the main component of yoga, it is also the foundation of life. Without breath, we are not alive.
This may sound obvious to us, yet, just like digestion and our heart-beat, we take it for granted.
Breathing is about moving air from a higher pressure environment to a lower pressure environment – more breath means more oxygen and nutrients are available for our cells and blood.
Slowing down the breath increases oxygen, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, stimulates digestion and metabolism, and very importantly, helps our body relax.
Conscious breathing and/or the control of the flow of breath helps inhibit neural responses, thus calming the sympathetic nervous system and decreasing nervous activity. This form of intentional breathing reduces the effects of stress and improves overall well-being, and physical, emotional, and mental health.
Directions for practice:
There are multiple breathing techniques that can support most mental and physical health. At EQX-J (Equinox Journey) we like to start conscious breathing with a pause…
Settling into one’s body and becoming still. Perhaps placing your hand on your belly before taking a deep inhale, feeling your belly expanding like a balloon on the inhale and deflating on the exhale.
This may feel counter-intuitive for the first few attempts, but we encourage you to practice this until you’ve adopted it as your normal breathing technique.
You may wish to count to four on the inhale and slowly lengthen the exhale to eight, this is known as the 2:1 breath. A breathing technique that can reduce your heart rate and calm you down during stressful times.
The effects of this occur within 6 – 7 minutes of practice. A powerful tool!
The Friends of Pranayama: Yoga, stillness, meditation, mindfulness, checking in, centering and nature
The Benefits of Pranayama (breathing): Besides immense health benefits, after practicing pranayama regularly, you will experience the benefits of being calmer, and feeling more equipped to deal with tough situations or challenges. Your instinct to react will be toned down creating equilibrium. Practicing deep belly breathing offers you overall well-being.
Remember: There are no quick fixes in life. Not sustainable ones anyway. Anything worth ‘keeping’ takes practice so decide to become aware of your breathing at least four or five times a day – do this for a month and feel the magic you’ve invited into your body. Some of the benefits of Pranayama occur within 90 seconds of beginning to practice.