When there is stress in our lives, the first thing we do is cease to breathe deeply. Which just aggravates the stress. Without enough oxygen, our bodies functions, including immunity and thought processes, are compromised. In times of stress, we need to be well; we need to think clearly. We need to be in a position to act, not react.
How Stress Affects the Body and the Brain
Curious as to just what stress does to you? Check out these great short videos. And, notice how all that talk about stress makes you feel.
Take a look at your breathing right now. Especially if you just watched those videos! Is it deep? Shallow? Fast? Slow? Consciously deepen and lengthen your breath and notice what changes within you.
Better, hunh? Thank goodness for Yoga and Pranayama. Pranayama is a yogic breathing technique – the conscious control of our breath. By practicing pranayama, we can learn how to take a deep breath, even amidst chaos when our breath tends to become too shallow and too quick to truly deliver the oxygen we need. Thus, helping us to stay present, healthy and calm.
I believe breathing is the ultimate in self-care and the easiest possible self-care we can do.
What happens in your body when you breathe?
How to use your breath to reduce stress
Now, it’s true that we will keep breathing even without thinking about it. But didn’t you feel better when you took deeper breaths? In yoga, we say that energy rides on the back of the breath. If we change the breath, we change the energy. Didn’t you just feel that? Different ways of breathing will have different effects on how you feel. My challenge to you is to try the following pranayama techniques (all have audio guidance) and notice how each makes you feel. Experimentation is the best way to learn what works best for you and will lead you to a breathing technique that you will practice and maintain that practice.
Practice this breathing technique for at least 10 minutes at least once a day (yes, this is
a form of meditation :-)). Perhaps you will practice will be in the morning to start your day right. Maybe it will be during the day when stress starts to get to you. Or, it might be at night to make sleep easier. It doesn’t matter when, it matters that you do it. Notice how this practice affects your stress levels in the moment and over the course of the week. Notice if this practice helps you stay healthier and a little more steady and sane.
Breathe deep, breathe well, breathe joy!