I often tell people that if I could teach only one aspect of Yoga, it would be Pranayama, the Yogic art of breath control. Good breathing has transformed my life. I know without a doubt that it can transform yours as well.
Every organ, every cell of your body requires oxygen to function. It needs to release carbon dioxide. This can only happen through the breath. Clearly, the more you breathe in, the more you can feed your cells with the oxygen they need to function. The more effectively you can exhale, the more your body is able to release the carbon dioxide, and the more space is created for oxygen intake.
When you breathe well, you nourish your cells, allowing the body to function better. Digestion, muscle function, cognitive functions, blood pressure and more are all improved when you breathe well. Respiratory disorders are improved. There is some research to suggest that histamine, the substance that causes allergic reactions such as hay fever, is reduced when you practice pranayama.
I can see evidence of all this in my own life. My health and vitality has increased considerably in the last 5 years since I learned to breathe well. I rarely suffer from the symptoms of the dust allergy that blighted my life for 40 years. My improved muscle function is clear to see from the way I climb mountains far easier than I used to. The asthma I have suffered with since childhood is greatly eased. Digestive problems I used to experience have disappeared.
Most of the improvements in my health can be attributed to lifestyle changes I have made, most notably, giving up smoking and drinking. But these were most definitely the result of learning to breathe.
My breath practice gave me a whole new bank of coping and stress management tools that had not been available to me before.
With these tools under my belt, I no longer needed to reach for the bottle or the cigarette to manage stress and anxiety, I now breathe through it. The most wonderful gift learning to breathe well has given me is a reduction in the usually overwhelming stress I used to find myself under.
The breath is intimately connected to the nervous system. Your breath changes depending on your emotional state. If you are stressed, your breath will be shallow, fast and erratic. When you are relaxed, your breath is deep, slow and more rhythmic. Sometimes your body ‘knows’ what you are feeling before your conscious mind does. You can, through the development of breath awareness, use your breath to notice and to regulate your emotions. When you are connected to your breath, you will notice the subtle changes in your breath, and can pay attention to how you feel. Sometimes you will find that you are barely breathing at all
When you are stressed, clear, objective thinking becomes difficult, if not impossible. You may find yourself doing or saying something in the heat of the moment that you come to regret once you have calmed down. Deep breaths taken at the point just before you react can transform that reaction into a more helpful response. I have used this many times in my own life, during disagreements with my ex partner, when stuck in traffic on the way to meetings, when being tested by my son, when life’s challenges threaten to overwhelm me and more. Those moments of deep breath can bring you back to your centre, and into the present moment, where you will find life a lot easier to manage.
Stress is such a huge problem in the Western world, that I find it difficult to think about ill health without coming back to it.
Stress causes, or exacerbates, so many health problems. I know that most, if not all, of the health problems I have had in the past – asthma, addiction, digestive issues, are all connected by stress. This is why I think that learning to breathe well is so fundamentally important for wellbeing. Not only does it promote physical health, more energy, better muscle functions and more effective functioning of the body, but it also greatly reduces stress, and provides a tool to manage stress when it arises. When we are able to reduce or manage stress, health improves.
If you would like to explore how learning to breathe can benefit your mental and physical health, then my 45 minute introductory workshop could be the perfect place to start. In this workshop, which is delivered online and recorded for you to revisit later, I will teach you some simple breath practices that will help you develop better breath awareness, gain greater control over your breath, and use the breath to help you manage during times of stress.
The workshops are held fortnightly, and will be delivered using Zoom, the video conferencing app. You don’t have to join live to get the benefit, as I will send the recording out to all who have joined. The workshops are just £27 for live access, follow up questions, and the recording. You will be invited to a private online community where you can ask questions, share your experience and discuss your learning with others, This is a powerful workshop that could transform your relationship with your breath, your mind and your body.
Find out more and book your place here