All you need is a breath away
One of the key ingredients of a great yoga practice is breath awareness. The simple act of synchronising the breath with the movement is probably one of the most effective mindfulness tools to keep your mind anchored in the present moment. When your mind is in the present, it can’t be in the past nor in the future, hence the frustrations, worries, problems, you came to the yoga class with, pause or dissolve - even if it’s just for the duration of the class. Breathing awareness connects you to the wisdom of your body and your intuition, offering you a bird-eye view on your current life situation or challenges. By focusing your attention on the breath, your yoga practice (and your life!) becomes a moving meditation.
The benefits of meditation are incredible and you can find tons of scientific studies “proving” what the masters of yoga already knew thousands of years ago. One of the most transformative effects of meditation is that it increases your resistance to stress by expanding your “window of discernment”. The window of discernment is the time between receiving a stimulus from the outside world and your response. The wider this window is, the higher is the chance that you’ll respond to the situation rather than react.
All the sensory inputs coming from the world around you (images, sounds, words, motor signals, etc) are processed by a gland in your brain called Thalamus before being sent to the brain's cerebral cortex for interpretation. When you receive a sensory stimulus which indicates a danger, the Thalamus send it to two routes:
Towards the Amygdala - the gland which processes fear & threats - which generated an immediate emotional response
Towards the Cortex - the part of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, learning, reasoning, problem-solving - which tells to the amygdala whether or not the stimulus represents a real threat.
When your window of discernment is small, you react as soon as the amygdala receives the input form the Thalamus with possibly a big emotional response - i.e. anger, aggressiveness, finger pointing, blaming, shouting, etc.
When your window of tolerance is wide, you wait for the input from your cortex before responding to the sensory input. You take that extra fraction of a second to decide what’s the best way to handle the situation. You’re more calm, confident and in control. Plus, you don’t overload your nervous system with unnecessary cortisol (stress hormone).
If you want to give meditation a try or you’re willing to expand your meditation repertoire, join me for Find Your Style, a FREE 5-DAYS Meditation Challenge starting on Feb 22nd.
Register for FREE HERE.
Back to the breath…
Pranayama is probably the word you’ll often see to describe all the different breathing techniques in yoga. This word has actually a much deeper meaning; let’s break it down:
Prana: life force energy (more about prana in this article)
Yama: restrain, control, reign in
A-yam: expansion, extension
Pranayama is how you can re-direct and expand your life force energy through restraining or controlling your breath. By breathing in a specific way for as little as 2 mins you can completely change the biochemistry into your body. Your breath is as powerful!
By practising pranayama often you’ll start becoming the master of your own energy. Rather than spilling all your energy out to social media, the news or the constant stream of inputs we’re bombarded on a daily basis with, you’ll start to discern what’s not “a good use of your prana” and you’ll start redirecting that energy to more fulfilling endeavours or just keep that energy for yourself if you feel tired and depleted.
All you need is a breath away. You can use Pranayama to focus, energise, balance or relax your mind & nervous system. Here are some short breathing meditations you can try for these different purposes; enjoy!
I hope this article has both sparked your curiosity in exploring all the different ways you can use your breath and make you realise what a powerful tool you have at hand. It’s always available and it’s free. Make it a tool to empower yourself 💗.
Thanks for reading until the end.
If there is any yoga topic you’re interested in, please let me know. After all, these articles are for you 🙂
Until next time,
Be WILD, be YOU