Over the years, I’ve incorporated certain yoga poses as part of a daily routine. In the morning it helps me wake up; and in the evening it relaxes me and helps me fall asleep.
During this shelter-at-home situation for Covid-19, studying yoga more has become important to me. One of the main practices of yoga is deep and slow breathing. Deep breathing is not just to help with relaxing but also helps strengthen the lungs and the diaphragm (these are muscles too).
I’m about to get yogi with you.
Pranayama is part of ashtanga yoga and is the science behind yogic breathing. It means the expansion of life. Prana is the body’s vital energy and pranayama is a technique of expanding prana throughout the body.
To simplify this, taking short breaths too often can induce stress in the body, which then affects the nervous system. The more stressed a body is, the more it can affect health and contribute to disease.
Pranayama promotes deep and slower breathing, which allows the body to rest. Slower breathing (inhaling and exhaling) can also make the heart stronger. When air flows into the body, the rib cage expands and the diaphragm flattens. This also allows blood to circulate oxygen.
A deep breath is full and rich with oxygen. This allows the diaphragm to fully function and supply the body with more oxygen. The blood vessels in the body and brain dilate, allowing oxygen-rich blood to circulate. A relaxation response is activated in the nervous system, and natural feel-good chemicals (serotonin and endorphins) are released. The heart pumps steady and the mind is calm.
This is why it is recommended to pause and take a deep breath when feeling stress coming on. Breathing exercises are also used for those with respiratory issues (asthma, COPD, bronchitis, emphysema).
Self-care is important and helps with the healing process. Here’s a simple exercise you can try:
- This exercise is breathing through the nostrils while keeping your mouth closed
- Place your index finger on one nostril (closing it) and inhale in deeply through the open nostril; mentally count to 7. (The goal is to fully expand the diaphragm)
- Hold your breath while mentally counting to 7
- Then exhale through the open nostril, mentally counting to 7.
- Switch nostrils and repeat.
For other ideas, here’s a video you can watch by Dr. Douillard, Strengthen Your Lungs Now.
Even my wise husband has reminded me on occasion – Remember to breathe and everything will be okay.