There’s a reason why pranayama, or breath awareness, is so important in yoga.
While Instagram and other social media outlets are laser-focused on creating shots of super bendy poses, or asanas, and putting those poses out there as the plateau of yoga, the simple form of breath is what should be focused on. Prana or the lifeforce energy that is within the body, can be your key to a multitude of things. Focusing on your breath can help lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, and create a more balanced and calm self.
In today’s world of constant strain, the hustle has never been more alive. We praise multi-tasking, we have phones and tablets so that we are never fully “out of the office,” and we feel pressure to expand these already pressing lives to do even more. Our keeping up with the Joneses have pushed many to the breaking point. We’re living longer lives than ever before, but we are also having stress-induced conditions and disease hit at earlier stages than ever too.
Learning to breathe should be part of everyone’s self-care routine. (And yes, everyone should have a self-care routine. The adage is true – you can’t pour from an empty vessel.)
“But everyone knows how to breathe,” I’ve heard. And that is completely true. Breathing for respiration is a non-voluntary event in every human form, alas breathing deep and cleansing is sadly not what is happening in every human form. Take time to learn how to slow your breathing pattern and slow your body’s overworking down.
There are many types of yoga breaths, but I want to focus on one particular one, the one that I use most often in my studio – the 4,7,8 breath. With this, you practice inhaling for a count of four through your nose, taking the air deep within your chest cavity. You then hold that breath in your expanded ribcage for a count of seven, which keeps your lungs expanded. Then, exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Exhaling this way creates a little whooshing sound and cleanses. We practice this type of breathing not only in our Savasana but also in other asanas as well.
So what does this 4,7,8 breath do besides expanding out the ribcage? It can provide short term relief for many sleep problems. Holding your breath deep within the chest cavity for seven seconds also creates a relaxing environment, where the mind quietens and helps increase the oxygen flow in the body. Done daily, before bedtime, and you’re creating a sound plan for a no-gym, no-cost way to wind down after a long day and give both your mind, and your body, time to reboot for the next day’s events.
Tina Samuels, a native of Rome, is a local yoga instructor and shiatsu bodywork therapist. Readers can contact her at www.romebodyworkandwellness.com.