Just Breathe

According to Swami Vidyananda of Integral Yoga, your breath is your most powerful form of stress-management. A deep, mindful breath sends a message to your brain via the vagus nerve that you are safe. In turn, your brain sends a message back to your body to release calming, settling hormones. So it is physiologically impossible to experience a stress response while taking long, smooth breaths. Your breath really is a super-power!
Plus, deep breaths are your body’s way of cleaning out your lungs. Think of your lungs as a swimming pool. The shallow breathing that you do most of the time works to simply skim the surface of your lung-pools. The walls and bottom stay filmy, or even covered in algae. It takes deep, diaphragmatic breathing to clean out the depths of the lungs.
Not sure if you are taking long, deep, belly breaths? Try this. Sit up tall and place your hands near your waist, feeling your lowest ribs under your fingers. Now try to take a breath that fills that lowest part of your lungs (it may feel like you are filling your belly). Your hands will feel your lungs expand front to back, left to right, and top to bottom. Only after you fill the bottom of your lungs do you continue to inhale to fill all the way up to your collarbones. Pause at the top and let your lung tissue stretch. Then smoothly and slowly exhale through your nose from the top of the lungs to the bottom, so the space under your hands is the last to release. Your exhale should be so slow that you wouldn’t blow out a birthday candle with the air being released from your nose. Try that breath at least two more times. And then set an alarm to take three deep, mindful breaths every hour. It’s good for your mental health AND for your physical health, too.
Explore more about wellness, the physiology of yoga, the science behind the practice, and the peaceful power that yoga cultivates in our studio classes, Y4A’s unique workshops, and on our Facebook page.  
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