How many times have you been to a yoga class and the instructor says “concentrate on your breath”, or “just breathe”. Of course we are breathing if we are alive. Our breath is one of the few things that we do not have control over. Let’s say you decide to hold your breath….you may be able to hold it long enough to pass out, but what happens when you pass out? You immediately start breathing again!
So, is paying attention to our breath really important during yoga?
I had seen magazines, TV shows and even movies that show people doing yoga. To be honest, I thought yoga was just moving your body into different poses, closing your eyes, chanting OM and repeating Namaste to the instructor when the class was finished. It took me a while to realize that yoga wasn’t just the postures, it had a lot to do with the mind and body connection. I remember a class that I took early on in my practice where there were over 50 people in the class. If that didn’t make me nervous enough, the sounds of everyone’s breath being heavy, loud and in synch kind of made me question why I decided to go to the class in the first place. During that class, I really started to pay attention to my breath. I noticed that with each inhale I was able to reach higher and with each exhale I was able to go deeper into the pose.
The following week I went back to my regular class and told the instructor about the class that I just taken and asked her if paying attention to your breath while doing is really that important. Her answer was YES! She explained to me that when we focus on our breath, the thoughts and emotions in our minds are by passed and we are then able to experience focus and become more aware of our bodies.
Very few people in the society that we live in know how to breathe properly. With the added stress in all of our lives, our breath tends to become rapid and shallow, allowing minimal air into our lungs and oxygen to our brains. This can lead to a number of health problems such as chronic pain, high blood pressure, headaches and anxiety.
So during your next yoga class or when you are feeling stressed, take deep mindful breaths through your nose. Then hold the breath briefly before exhaling twice as long as you did on the inhalation. Not only will this release tension and reduce stress, it will ground you when you feel overwhelmed by everything going on around you.
So no matter what your circumstances are…..close your eyes and “Just Breathe”.