Are you breathing comfortably?
Pranayama, is Sanskrit for breath control or extension of the life force. Breathing supplies the nutrients to our cells and it is the primary way toxins are removed from our body. Essentially breathing is the most efficient way we can stay healthy.
Breathing pattern reflects our character and history, from birth to present moment. Ideally we should all breathe like babies, in a wave from the pelvic area moving upwards, fully and naturally. However the majority of us breathe from our chest or mid chest, rarely achieving belly breath. Day to day life, busyness, work and stress play a massive part in the way we breathe.
Conscious breathing works on a physical, emotional and spiritual level and when you work with a breath worker or a facilitator they use a technique called 'body mapping' - pressing on specific acupressure points - to release negative emotion or trauma. It is not just about the air we breathe but the breathing pattern we use and how to correct them. The more we work with breath, the more we improve the body's systems, such as digestion and circulation. Breath work helps people to be more conscious on many levels. Deep-belly breathing is necessary for healthy living as it keeps the whole body relaxed and oxygenated.
I recently took part in a transformational breath workshop held by Stuart Sandeman, founder of Breath Pod.
On arriving the room was set out with yoga mats, cushions and blankets for each of us, with the sweet smell of sage in the air. 5 floors up, with a stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle and views over the city, the birds flying beside us through the full scale glass window. Stuart and Nova invited us in warmly. Following a really friendly and informative introduction and discussion about breathing, we got straight into the warm up session and then onto the deeper work. Lying on the floor heads on pillows, listening to a beautiful soundtrack, we began to breath - long inhales and short exhales always through the mouth. The exhale has to be relaxed not forced, it's like breathing onto a mirror to polish it, there is no pause between inhale and exhale - this is called connected breathing. Stuart and Nova wandered around the room checking in with us, to see that we were breathing in the correct way and using acupressure points to activate the areas we needed to be breathing into, like the abdomen.
Mouth breathing felt odd at first, the opposite of yogic breathing's tenancy towards taking a longer exhale than inhale - and it made my mouth feel dry. But I soon relaxed into it. We did around 20mins of this, working our way up the 'Chakras' (centers of energy that move inside of us), interspersed with making loud sounds relating to each chakra, honking like geese and drumming the floor with our feet and hands, which was a bit like having a full blown toddler tantrum. I loved this part, the vibrations created and the tingling in my hands and head from the oxygen was a magic feeling. It was so liberating that I couldn't stop smiling.
The breath session itself lasted a full hour, towards the end I was beginning to feel a real lightness, like every bit of my body was nourished, even my eyeballs! My head felt clear but also still.
As a group we shared a little about our experiences, each individual having had a different one depending on the intention set before the class. My intention was to enjoy the stillness, the feeling of calm and take it through my day with me. I can most definitely say I succeeded with that, I had much more energy than I normally would come a Sunday evening. Over all I just felt free from any weight or burden. Why had I not paid more attention to breathing this way before? After all, it is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we die. But there's a right time for everything I guess, this felt like it for me.
You can Find out more about Breath Pod
by visiting the website: www.breathpod.me
There is also a Spotify Playlist:
Breath Pod 100 Breaths
The great thing about breathing is....its free, we can do it anywhere and at anytime. So go on, get breathing:
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie. Think of your body as being divided into three portions, the lower belly, the middle part of the body and the chest. As you do this exercise, close the throat slightly (what is known in yoga as the ujjayi breath) so that the breath moves slowly. Inhale slowly and deeply gradually, filling each part in turn. Inhale as much air as you can, and then go in the opposite direction slowly exhaling from each portion of the body. Pull the belly in to slowly exhale the last part of the breath. Practise deep breathing for 10 minutes at a time or whenever you notice your self shallow breathing or holding your breath.