Have you ever notice your breath tense up or get shallow when you’re feeling stressed?
Do you remember your breath speed up as you watch a scary scene from a movie?
This is because the mind has a direct influence on the breath. The breath is part of our autonomic nervous system, which means that it is a part of our subconscious mind’s programing. We breath without having to consciously think so that our bodies can thrive with much needed oxygen when we are sleeping or just focusing on other tasks in life.
Amazingly our breathing pattern does reflect our state of mind. It responds to us being relaxed as well as when we’re in distress. But we can use this to our advantage.
Just as our breath responds to our state of mind, our state of mind responds to our breath. Yogis have figured this out thousands of years ago and this is why they have been practicing ‘pranayama’ with such great results throughout history. Pranayama is a practice that is done by using specific techniques to control the breath. The word translates to ‘extension of prana or life force’.
Prana, or life force is what gives life to all that which has life is in nature. It corresponds with the same meaning that the Chinese refer as ‘Qi’.
So getting back to the breath – how can controlling the breath have an affect on the mind? Think of a time where you had absolutely no pressure, like when you were on vacation and completely free from all responsibility. The weather was perfect, everything felt so right. You may have noticed that your breath was so calm – and deep. When the mind is at peace, the breath is deep and slow.
If you begin to breath deep and slow, you can trick your mind into believing it’s in a state of calm.
A great Kundalini yoga pranayama exercise is called the one minute breath. The idea is to breath 20 seconds in, hold for 20 seconds, and breath out for 20 seconds. Many people are not used to this long of a breath so the ideal place to start is with 10 seconds for all three parts and build up.
Begin by finding a comfortable seated position at a time that you wont be interrupted. Inhale deep and exhale fully a few times to begin. Breathe in and count how many seconds you can complete a slow and deep inhale comfortably. Hold in the breath for that same amount, and exhale for the same amount as well. Repeat this for at least 10 times. You will feel refreshed and clear! This is a great practice before important meetings, to release any stress or anxiety during the day, or if you need some extra energy for the day!
Image by Victor Garcia