Words by Sinead Dunne - moonsYOGA
November 21st, 2019
I often compare the process of breathing to blinking; we do it subconsciously throughout the day but unlike blinking, taking a breath can be the most powerful tool when used in the right way. ‘Mindfulness’ is a buzzword that is used quite a lot recently, and sadly it has nearly been stripped of its actual meaning from overuse and confusing terminology (read our beginner’s guide to mindfulness here). In practical everyday terms, being mindful simply means being aware of yourself and to be engaged in the simplest of tasks. Breathing mindfully draws your attention back to your breath which in turn helps calm and relax the mind and body. Keeping our lungs working to their full capacity maintains optimal oxygen in the blood flow which keeps us alert but most importantly, breathing deeply calms the nervous system which keeps the body and mind healthy and happy.
Within yoga, breathing is utilised through a form named Pranayama which regulates the breath using certain techniques. The real power of harnessing our breath correctly lies in its ability to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system. By working through breathing exercises, the body has the ability to slow the heart rate, keep the organs functioning evenly and can even help quieten the mind. Anxiety is something a lot of people live with every day but by tackling the way we breathe, we offer the chance to ease and eliminate stress from within. It is a reassuring and comforting thought to realise that the body possesses the tools to help relax our bodies and govern our mind. If you are looking to increase your mindfulness via practising yoga, Yoga Asana will offer you an array of moves and stretches which will help silence the racing thoughts.
The world we live in will always throw challenges at us, stress will reach us and anxieties will attempt to deafen us. People need to accept that life is beautiful but, of course, chaotic — the term ‘stress-free’ is a myth but I think we can all learn to obtain a calmer mindset, and as I mentioned before, we are all armed with the tools to cope. Instead of looking to lead a stress-free and anxiety-free life, why not positively realign your body’s reactions when they occur? Below, I have included a simple breathing technique that will help slow the heart rate, quiet the mind and relax the body. Give this a go the next time the world is feeling a tad overwhelming and notice your how your body feels.
1. Sit on a cushion in a comfortable position (Sukhasana or cross-legged), and close your eyes if it feels nice. Ensure your sitting-bones are connected to something, and level. Feel your spine grow long as you lengthen from the crown of your head. Relax your shoulders and jawline.
2. Place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath inwards. Imagine your stomach as a beautiful balloon as it inflates when you inhale and deflates as you exhale. Connect to this sensation and repeat for five breaths.
3. Now place your hands higher, like a loose corset on the ribs. Again, focus on the movement as you deeply breathe in and out fully for five rounds of breath.
4. Finally, cross your hands and place them in the middle of your chest, just below your collarbone. Focus on the chest expanding as you breathe in and how it falls as you release the breath. Again, practice five rounds of full breaths, inhaling/exhaling slowly to your full capacity.
Hopefully, by now, your mind and body feel a little more relaxed. By focusing on your breathing for a few minutes you have, in fact, engaged in an act of mindfulness. Turning your gaze inward, and being aware of how things improve, will also motivate you to try it more often. Thus achieves my ultimate goal, making people happier. Breathe like your life depends on it.
Sinead Dunne, better known as “moonsYOGA”, is an expert on all things yoga.
If you’re looking for some yoga inspo in the meantime, check out Sinead’s Instagram moonsYOGA to see some serious backward flexion.
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