As a former type “A” person, I was always running full speed ahead.
Being continuously stressed caused me to develop a pattern of shallow breathing, which exacerbated my stress levels even further.
Through my yoga practice, I was able to become aware of my altered breathing patterns and relearn how to breathe deeply and easefully. I found out that the way I was breathing profoundly impacted my health and wellbeing. I learned that how I breathe affects my energy level, sleep, memory, and concentration.
I was already experiencing the benefits of deep breathing when I began to add a heart-focus. I started to feel different: calmer, more positive, focused, and more heart-centered.
When the stuff of life stresses us we lose our connection with our deeper selves. Signs that we are in need of centering are feelings of being overwhelmed, an inability to focus, and a general disconnection. However, by taking a few minutes to stop, become present with your breath, and reconnect with your heart, you can literally change every cell in your body.
Engaging this simple practice can help you let go of tension and anxiety, move into a state of relaxation, and clear your mind. Since we are all moving through life quickly these days, it is great to have a “quick fix” to get us into a more relaxed state.
I also learned how to enhance my breathing practice even more by using lavender essential oil. I use it in my yoga classes, and I even carry a roll-on with me wherever I go for easy access.
7 Simple Steps to Pranayama
Now I teach this simple but powerful heart-focused breathing practice in my yoga classes.
The great thing about breathing practices (called Pranayama in yoga) is that practicing these techniques is something anyone can learn to do. So how do you do it? Use these seven simple steps:
- Take a moment to draw your awareness to your body and breath.
- Wherever you are: sitting, standing, or lying down, invite your whole body to relax.
- Begin to draw your awareness to the rhythm of your breath and find an even breathing pattern. You can do this by using a count of 4 or 5 on your inhale and exhale.
- Now begin to draw your awareness to your heart.
- If possible, place your right palm over your heart and your left palm over your right hand while gently closing your eyes.
- Continue this heart-focused breathing for 1-5 minutes. Draw your awareness gently back when it wanders.
- When you are ready, slowly release the practice and gently move back into life.
You can do this practice anywhere: in the grocery or carpool line, before a big meeting, at night before bed, even while walking.
Learning how to slow down your breathing is a great way to counter your mind and body’s response to stress and to increase your overall resilience.
We never know what is waiting for us around the corner of life. What we do know is that we have the power to choose how we react. Practicing heart-focused breathing helps us find our center, let go of stress, and be less reactive to the events of life. We are also more likely to make choices that are compassionate and heart-centered.
I hope that you find this practice as beneficial in your life and I have in mine.