by Genevieve Nutting
Drop off the dry cleaning, hit up the grocery store, find a gift for your best friend’s birthday, put together a PowerPoint presentation for your boss by tomorrow, and somehow find time to make it to the Barre class you promised you’d go to three times a week. Add to that list, slow down and take a few deep breaths. How is it that your friend who is on the board for multiple organizations, partakes in a regular yoga practice, and still manages to keep calm when one of her three children starts throwing a fit at the grocery store? A breathing technique she practices in her yoga practice called “pranayama” may have something to do with it.
Breathing is something our bodies can naturally do without us thinking about it, so why is it so difficult to do when we are focused on it?
How to “pranayama” off the mat
Find a happy place – Maybe it’s a physical place or something that involves closing the eyes and imagining being there. Then, attempt to shut out any distractions including bustling traffic, screaming children, or inner voices reminding what is on the to-do list.
Slow down – Start by inhaling through the nose slowly, holding a full breath of air at the top, and making each exhale a little longer as the mouth opens to release carbon dioxide.
Don’t force it – Instead focus on visualizing each breath and where it travels in the body as it fills the chest and diaphragm with each inhale, and the stomach deflates like a balloon with each exhale.
Benefits of incorporating “pranayama” in your life
Relax – When we take a slow, deep inhale, we in turn activate our parasympathetic nervous system, the part of our body responsible for regenerating and relieving us from our “fight or flight” stage. As a result, our blood pressure lowers and heart rate slows down.
Prevent illness – When our acidic levels are high, a welcoming environment is created for disease and bacteria. Bringing breath into the body helps to increases our lymphatic fluid circulation and decrease inflammation and acidic levels in the body which are believed to encourage free radicals and cancer related bacteria to infest the body.
Better digestion – Feeling constipated? When the body is in a relaxed state, it is in a better position to digest food as deep breaths massage the internal organs in the lower abdomens as opposed to shallow breathing.
Energized – Breathing doesn’t just help with relaxing, it also energizes. Imagine each strong exhale releasing negativity and toxic energy while each inhale creates energy and releases endorphins.
Smarter choices – Taking those moments to simply breathe and slow down allows a sense of presence and awareness. Not only will this give the mind a chance to catch up, but decision making skills are enhanced and we may not feel so enticed to devour that double fudge brownie the next time we stress.