3 Steps to Better BreathingFeb 09, 2023
“Just breathe” is a common phrase in response to anything stressful. But how does that actually work? In a previous video, I shared why “Take a Deep Breath” may not work, and what to do about it.
Breathing habits play a crucial role in mind and mood. The breath is directly connected to the nervous system. By learning to shape the breath, you can shape your mind. This is at the heart of Yoga.
You’re already breathing anyway, but it’s likely that it’s become restricted and disordered over time.
You can re-establish healthy breathing patterns in three simple steps.
The first step is to become aware of the breath. Notice how it moves and where it moves. This is easier with a “breathing buddy.” Place a bean toy or a origami paper sailboat on the belly while lying on the back. Watch the object move with the breath. Make this a part of your routine. In the morning before breakfast, as a break afterschool or before bed are all great times to get to know your breath.
The second step is to invite deeper breathing. Again, a physical object in contact with the belly helps. You can lie face down and the whole floor then gives you feedback. Every inhale is alerting and every exhale is relaxing. When the exhale is longer than the inhale, your nervous system moves into relaxation mode. The more often you practice slower, longer exhales, the more it becomes the default habit.
Step three is to shape the breath. You can tone and strengthen the nervous system to improve stress hardiness by adding resistance. Just like muscles are developed by adding resistance. For the breath, this comes in the form of shaping the breath into certain patterns as well as holding the breath. These techniques are known as “pranayama.”
The first two steps are foundational, like brushing your teeth and drinking water. Make them a part of your daily routine.
The third step, pranayama, is how one gains mastery of the mind. (via the nervous system). This is also a daily practice, but must be done with expert guidance.
Alternate Nostril breathing is one of two main pranayama techniques we teach in our children’s yoga training. This video shows Mira and a young yogi practicing an introductory version of it. Try it and see what you think!
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