As a yoga teacher, a lot of what I offer in my teachings is how to understand and control your breathing. Most people don’t really place a lot of value in this tool because we all already breathe. It is the control and the quality of the breath that we focus on in the yoga practice. And of course what we practise in yoga should benefit us off the mat even more. The breath control (or pranayama as the actual term) not only helps us go deeper in our yoga postures, it has a multitude of benefits that should be widely known to every single person.
Off the mat benefits of pranayama:
Expands and strengthens the lungs by breathing into the lower lobes through diaphragm breathing. (Most of us are chest breathers.)
Helps us to control our situation. When feeling excited, anxious, angry or panicked, we need to turn to our breath to be able to take a few moments to deal with our emotions.
Helps with flexibility. Try standing up and touching your toes without thinking. You probably held your breath, were far away from your toes, and maybe even felt a little dizzy, or there was pressure in your head. Now try bringing your arms up at the same time as taking a huge breath in through your nose, now exhale and come down. Take your hands to your shins and breathe in again to look up, breathe out to go lower. Continue this for as many days, weeks or months before the hamstrings and spine become a little longer with practice. The secret? The breath. This is applied to every single yoga posture.
Breath is life. It is vitality. I always tell people that tell me they can’t do yoga – go outside and just breathe. If you’re in a hospital bed or bed ridden at home – prop open a window and just breathe. In through the nose (never ever the mouth) and out through the mouth. The nose is made to filter air, the mouth is not. The breaths become longer, deeper and more beneficial when taken in through the nose. Try to pull the air in through the throat (it kind of sounds like ocean waves) and not a sniffing sound in the nose, and then exhale out the mouth while saying “ha.” The “ha” sound should sound like when you’re clearing fogged glasses. It takes practice, but once you get it, I promise your life will change.
Take care of your lungs, and your body. It is the vehicle to who you are on the inside.