If you read Natalie’s latest post on anxiety then you will know that meditating or sitting down and concentrating on the breath is one of the most effective ways she has found to calm her mind and relieve herself from feeling anxious.
Many people have found meditating or concentrating on the breath an incredible tool to relax the mind and focus it on positive things so that they can get on with their day feeling happier and more energised. But have you ever wondered why slowing down and concentrating on the breath has such a positive and profound effect on your wellbeing?
During my yoga teachers training I have learnt an incredible amount about Yoga, however, one of the most important and most fascinating things that I've developed an understanding of is how powerful the breath is and how following a few simple breathing techniques can not only improve a person's energy, mood, metabolism and control over their emotions but also their longevity.
Pranayama is the Sanskrit term for regulating the breath using particular breathing techniques. The word Pranayama can be broken down in to two parts. 'Prana', which stands for the divine mother energy and ‘yama’, which stand for control or science of control. Pranayama therefor refers to the science of the breath. One of the main reasons Pranayama breathing techniques are used is to gain control over the mind. The Yogis describe the mind as a drunken monkey that has been stung by a scorpion! In other words, it's a crazy thing that's almost impossible to control, however through focusing on our breath and slowing that down we are one step closer to managing our mind, emotions, anxiety, stress and a long list of other things too.
If you think about it when we are born the first thing we do is breathe! This is why most Yoga classes will begin with the breath and later move on to the postures. Learning to sit quietly and focus on the breath is honestly not as easy as it sounds and like Natalie mentioned in our previous blog post, it can take a long time to even get over the idea of sitting down in peace to breath, never mind actually doing it. This is why when you understand exactly why breathing can help you to feel more calm, in control and less anxious you may be more inclined to find that 5-10 minutes, building up to 15 minutes of sitting and focusing on the breath.
A few tools that can help you in the beginning stages of sitting down to breath or meditate is concentrating on the three areas of the lungs where the breath enters and leaves the body. When breathing in if you can concentrate on the breath entering the lower lung first, followed by the mid, then upper. To make sure that you're breathing in to the right areas you can place your hands below the chest in between your rib cage for the lower lung, on your chest for the mid lung and on the clavicular area for the upper lung. When you exhale the breath should leave your body from the low, mid and upper also.
Another great tool is to count whilst you breath, breathing in and out for 4 seconds, building it up to 6 seconds. This technique stops the mind from wondering and also helps to regulate your breathing. It can also help you to slow the breath down which will naturally help the body to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety.
When you get comfortable with regulating your breath, breathing in and out for 4 or 6 seconds, you could then begin to think about breathing in feelings of positivity and breathing out any stress, anxiety or negativity. Eventually you'll find that fifteen minutes flies by and you may even want to try and introduce breathing in to your evening routine as well as morning.
Remember, there is no such thing as a quick fix! However, don't see this as a negative! We all need time to adjust and settle in to a new habit or routine and just because some of us may find it impossible to sit down and breathe the first time does not mean you will when you try again. If you do, that's fine but don't give up! It's taken Nat and I a long time to realise this and I know from experience that when you are feeling anxious, stressed, down in the dumps or just exhausted the last thing you may feel like doing is sitting down to breathe. However once I stopped thinking about it as a chore or something I was forcing myself to do I began to see it as time out for myself to enjoy and be present, that's when I began to reap the benefits of feeling less anxious and more present. Taking time out to practice on the breath is not just about looking after yourself, it can support you to have the patience and energy to look after others and give them your undivided attention by being completely present.
Your health matters and we are here to remind you that there are countless ways to help you feel more aligned, happy and thriving! One great way to begin your journey could be the breath!
Nat and I are so excited and incredibly inspired by everything we have been learning whilst studying yoga and nutrition. In the next couple of months we will be taking on students and clients in the hope of spreading our mission even further! We will be offering a long list of services including health and wellness coaching, healthy pantry make overs, home cooking sessions, mindful eating and educational workshops, supper clubs, breath workshops to support and mange anxiety and stress and yoga classes to nourish the body and mind! If you are looking for support with your own health journey we would love to hear from you. You can get in touch through any of our social media channels or head to the contact page which can be found in the drop down the right hand side of this site!