It really is all about the breath

Every time I think otherwise, I’m again proven wrong. And I enjoy being wrong about this. It’s comforting to be reminded and really accept that the breath is paramount and everything else has the job of supplementing the effectiveness of breath.

Don’t believe me?

Think of the hardest pose you can effectively (most of the time) execute. Okay, now go practice it with a determined commitment to your breath. How did it go? Pretty damn well, I’m betting. Sit with that. Breath practices and movement equal excellent outcomes.

Next, try the posture while holding your breath. What’s the verdict? Did you kind of want to pass out a little from the awfulness of it? Yeah, been there. Been there too many times. And I know I’ll be there again. I can’t quite seem to remember to prioritize breath practices each and every single time.

If we know a specific resource makes all the difference, why would we ever decide not to utilize it?

There are quite a few theories on why breath practices are not as much of a priority as they should be:

  • We are habitual folks. All of us. We get used to a habit and it’s hard to create a new one, even a habit that only adds to our quality of life. If we are used to breathing shallowly and not really thinking about our breath unless we are told to breathe, well then. It’s going to be a challenge to alter that long-held pattern.
  • We’re stubborn. Of course, we are. Even those of us who embrace change don’t feel completely open to all change. Breath practices seem quite daunting at first. And then there’s the belief that we haven’t died yet, so we must be breathing at least effectively enough. We realize that when we do sit down and focus on our breath we feel better. Way better. But then we quickly forget and talk ourselves out of prioritizing it, even if we know it will help relieve our stress.
  • It’s an effort. Everything is and we have to determine where to spend our energy and what we want to achieve. When we stay on auto-pilot, we grant ourselves permission to focus on other things. Things we convince ourselves are more important.
  • We fear success. I used to think that was a croc, but it’s not. If we add in breath practices and feel the positive outcomes, we have to acknowledge that we could have been succeeding all along and refused. Back to stubbornness we go.

Once we embrace breath practices as a vital form of self-care, we start to warm to its importance

Every yoga practitioner has had that moment when they’ve had no choice but to accept the importance of breath practices. We feel better with more oxygen in our blood. Our central nervous system gets a much-needed break and we build our parasympathetic nervous systems to a healthy and well-functioning place. We aren’t quite so stressed. Managing our anxiety and tendencies to ruminate and create stories feels easier. We know breath practices are of the utmost importance.

So let’s begin right now.

Introduce these two breath practices daily for just a couple of minutes in the morning and at night. Try it for a week and journal about your daily observations.

  1. Nadi Shodhanam (Alternate Nostril Breathing). This practice offers a credible and immediately noticeable decrease in stress, anxiety, and clearer thinking and sinus passages. Begin by sitting comfortably and using your right hand, gently partially seal your right nostril with your thumb. Tuck your index and middle finger into your palm. Breath in through your left nostril and using your ring finger, tap both nostrils for a moment and let your thumb go, breathing out of your right nostril. Breath back in through the right nostril, seal both nostrils for a moment, and move your ring finger to breath all the way out left. Do this for several rounds, concluding by breathing out left. At night begin with the alternate nostril.
  2. Simple diaphragmatic breathing. The important thing to remember here is to relax the muscles of the belly and to really let the exhale out. I know, it sounds obvious, but because we short-change the exhale on the regular. Use the counting method to try to accomplish an evenness to your inhales and exhales. Don’t try too hard to take in the very biggest breath ever. Just take in a comfortable amount and exhale softly but with the intention to clear the lungs.

Please share your experiences and any other breath work you feel is of daily importance to the management of stress and building of our mental commitment to our own health and well-being.