Yoga for Stress

The Healing Power of the Breath

Everything you do, from the pace you keep and the choices you make to the feelings you have, is influenced by the rhythm of your breath. As you feel overwhelmed with increased levels of stress, the rhythm that determines the quality and state of your breathing and well-being is set at faster speed. You may feel like a hamster, endlessly running on a wheel with no way to stop and get off. The tension and anxiety that accompanies that uneasy or distressed state could undermine your desire for self-care, or even your ability to successfully navigate relationships.

You may remember a time when you felt energized, yet calm and centered, and wonder how you can recover that harmonious state. In looking for a solution it is easy to get caught up in expensive, complicated strategies for we seldom tap into the most easily accessible and fundamental concept.  The process of breathing is at the core of our stress response…it lies at the center of every action and reaction we make and have. We need to tune into our breath, and ensure it is unencumbered and free.

Right now, your body is breathing for you. Your breath flows in and out without any thought on your part. This automatic breath is flexible and free, allowing you to survive and thrive. When you unconsciously hold or restrict your breathing through habit or stressful change, your breath becomes restricted or distorted. This unconsciously altered breath allows you to survive, but it does not allow you to thrive.

The good news is that you didn’t lose your flexible, free breath. Practice of yoga breathing, or Pranayama, can get you back to this calming breath, helping you to reduce stress and quiet your mind. By uncovering and removing the obstacles that we consciously and unconsciously built around the breathing process, you can discover the breath that will help you thrive.

Try it now by following the instructions below:

  • Find a comfortable seated position
  • Slowly bring your attention to your breathing without trying to change it
  • Let the breath do what it will
  • Begin to rest your attention on your exhalation
  • Let your awareness travel down the length of an exhalation
  • Do this a few times and just enjoy the sensation of the breath effortlessly leaving the body
  • Notice the momentary pause that follows the end of exhalation
  • Don’t try to make the pause happen or extend it, simply relax and let it happen
  • Trust that the next inhalation can arise out of the pause without you making it happen
  • Within this pause, there is no movement, no thought
  • It may feel more like a pregnant silence
  • The new breath cycle arises out of this pause
  • The inhalation is born out of the stillness of the pause and exhalation dissolves into it
  • The pause is a well, a resource that is always available to you
  • When you feel tired, confused, hurried, or overwhelmed, you can draw from this well for rest and replenishment simply by entering the pause at the end of the exhalation.

By practicing this yoga breathing you can reclaim your free breath and feel the stress subside and your energy rise. You will feel the positive impact on all aspects of your well-being.

About the Author:  
Silvie brings over a decade of teaching into her classes. She encourages her students to utilize the power of breath movement and self-awareness to access the natural state – alert, yet at ease. Teaching thoughtfully sequenced vinyasa flow classes that incorporate the basic principles of yoga and address the needs of modern yogis, she has been known for helping students alleviate their pain and restore a sense of calm.

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