As a yoga teacher, I regularly see students report the benefits of using the yoga breathing exercises they learn in class when they feel stressed or unsure of themselves; for example, before supervision with their Team Manager, meeting new people or planning a Family Celebration.
Fear and anxiety creates stress. When you are stressed you fail to produce your best. If you continue to worry, your work suffers, your health may deteriorate and you find it difficult to relax and be happy.
The practice of yogic breathing exercises offers you a way to move through your worries and anxieties and manage your life in a more peaceful and balanced way.
Known as pranayama, yogic breathing practices form the core of yoga. There is a saying in yoga that it is not the number of years lived which determines the length of your life, but the number of breaths taken! Therefore it is essential you breathe correctly to reduce your stress levels.
The following yoga breathing exercises are amongst the ones my students regularly say give them the maximum benefit in releasing stress and tension. They are simple to do and can be practiced anyway, anytime of the day you wish to feel calm and focused.
One: Watch The Breath
Sit comfortably, close your eyes and become aware of how you are breathing. Don’t change your breathe, just be present and observe the movement of air in and out through your nose.
Allow your breath to find its own natural rhythm and continue to listen and observe your breathe for two minutes.
When you practice this tip, at first you may find it hard to concentrate on your breathe. Don’t worry. Whenever your mind wanders, or you lose concentration, just return to observing your breath.
Two: Diaphragmatic Breathing
You can practice diaphragmatic breathing lying down on your back on a comfortable surface, sitting comfortably in a chair or even standing up. Place one hand gently on your upper chest, the other hand on your belly. Relax your belly and chest. Keep your mouth closed. Breathe in through your nose and feel your belly, rising up expanding, then feel the ribcage rising and finally the upper chest. As you exhale, feel the belly sink down.
Practice five to seven rounds of diaphragmatic breathing then slowly open your eyes, be still for a few moments till you feel ready to gently re-engage with your day.
Three: Lion Roar.
Although not technically a traditional pranayama exercise, the Lion Roar is a firm favourite breathing exercise with my yoga students to release frustration and the build up of anxiety and stress.
Sit or stand comfortably, scrunch your face up, like a dried prune. Open your eyes look upwards; open your mouth, stretch out your tongue and Roarrrrrr like a lion. Repeat until you feel powerful, calm and in control.
Next time, you feel stressed, overwhelmed and have loads of things to do, choose one of the above breathing practice tips and feel the difference it makes to your life. You will feel less stressed, relaxed and more able to manage your life successfully.