The Simplicity of Breath
January 2017 is all about loving your body at Love Your Body. So, we are thrilled that our friends at Tree House Yoga have agreed to do a series of blog posts for our series Happy Body! In this week's post, Laura Haehl tells us about breath, how it changes when we are stressed out and what we can do to breathe more mindfully. See below for Laura's full bio.
Take a moment and check in with your breath. Is it short, choppy, smooth? Which parts of your torso are moving when you breathe? Do you ever find yourself holding your breath?
Now try a few slow, deep breaths. Feel your breath in three areas of your torso: the lower belly and back, the mid-belly and back, and the upper back and chest. To be able to feel this breath movement in your body, try to relax it. If you can relax it enough, you might even be able to feel your pelvis shift around as you are breathing.
Checking in with your breath throughout the day and taking a few moments to take deeper breaths can help you feel calmer and boost your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. Because of the stressful lives that we live, we end up spending too much of our time with our sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system in charge which can increase heart rate and blood pressure and kicks off the stress response (think stress hormones) in the body.
Now bring yourself back to a stressful response. Just feel stressed (it shouldn’t be too hard to go back and find the feeling of being stressed out!). Notice where you feel the tension in your body and how your breathing shifted. Typical culprits are our shoulders, jaw, belly, inner thighs and glutes.
Now picture your favorite baby or toddler. Is their belly hanging out? Exactly. They aren’t too worried about anything and their physical body reflects it. Try relaxing your low belly. Tense it. Relax it. Play with this as you try breathing.
Sometimes we don’t even need to make our breath get deeper. Rather, we can try allowing it to deepen by relaxing our body. Tense up your low belly again and breathe without controlling it. Now, relax your low belly and just let your breath deepen naturally (gravity is your friend here!)
Attending a yoga class is one way you can start to bring more awareness to the tension in your body that is preventing you from breathing deeply. Yoga gives you the chance to slow down and focus on your body and breathe for an entire hour or more. Take that opportunity to notice the patterns of tension in your body so you can begin to notice them of your mat as well.
In the meantime, try out these three easy methods of pranayama and use whichever one works for you as often as you can:
Three Part Breath
Breathe into the lower belly and back first like you are filling up a glass of water
Breathe into the mid-belly and back second (continue filling)
Breathe into the upper body
Reverse the order as you exhale (out of the upper, out of the middle, out of the lower)
Take gentle, natural breaths without lengthening them
Find the count of each breath (for example, 3 counts in and 3 counts out)
Extend your exhale to be twice as long as your inhale
Lion’s Breath (This one might require you to hide in the bathroom!)
As you exhale, do so forcefully and loudly. Open your mouth wide to stretch your face, stick your tongue out and roll your eyes up to “look” through the top of your head
Lion’s Breath has you stretching your face which stimulates the meridian lines (lines of energy used by acupuncturists) of the face. Be sure to makes lots of noise!
The more you can become aware of your body’s tension and how you are breathing throughout the day, the more quickly you can start to change your habits.
Laura Haehl began her study of yoga over 15 years ago, earning her 200-Hour certification in 2007 and beginning teaching in 2008. Through her yoga studies, Laura found Yin Yoga which showed her how to find quiet and stillness in her practice and daily life. She believes finding this quiet space has allowed her to find more balance in her life and has shown her how to have what matters most to her – peace and happiness. She has been teaching yoga at Tree House (treehouseindy.com) since January 2016. She is also a Reiki practitioner and intuitive card reader at Nesha (www.nesha.biz) which is located in The Sanctuary beneath Tree House.