Dr. Tamara C. Hill
There is capital "S" science behind those yoga breathing techniques.
For me, one of the hardest things in yoga has been breath work. The first 39 months of practice i would accidentally inhale when the yoga instructor said to exhale. Rarely could i catch my breath and it would also make me chuckle how many times the guide would remind us to "breathe." However, there is great reason as to why breathing or pranayama is such a focus and top suggestion in many yoga practices.
Pranayama is one of eight limbs of yoga. It is a practice of and an understanding of breath control. It is an ability to keep a calm and even breath despite being both physically and mentally challenged.
Since the breath is directly connected to the autonomic nervous system, slowing down the breath can impact several areas of the body that respond to strain.
When we breathe more steadily it immediately begins to engage the parasympathetic portion of our nervous system - which is the key regulator of relaxation and combating prolonged stress.
There are multiple ways to practice breath work. For me, focusing on my breath was a good beginning practice. As soon as i began to focus on my breath, it automatically seemed to slow it down. When i focus on my breath it makes it less difficult to become distracted with discomfort or thoughts of judgment and criticism. That is the point of the practice. When we become uncomfortable and burdened with thought, can we shift the thought to the breath and not allow it to impact the quality of our breath.
1 minute Breath Work Practice
Find a comfortable position - sitting, lying or standing. Begin to focus on the breath and become more aware of its' quality, how it feels. Take a slower, deep cleansing breath in through the nose and fully fill the lungs. Pause just for a moment and then slowly exhale through the mouth. Do this a few times as many times as you can throughout the day.
Helpful Tips for Getting Started
You be the judge. If you feel any discomfort or lightheadedness, stop immediately and return to normal breathing. Consult an instructor for guidance and supervision.
Never force or restrict your breath. Don’t compromise the quality of the breath. Do the best that you can. The more you practice, the longer you’ll be able to perform the exercises, and eventually, you’ll be able to use more of your lung capacity.
Patience and practice. Pranayama should be done with great care and awareness. Try to stay focused on the journey, not the destination! Over time, you will start to notice the benefits of the practice.