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There’s a trend in certain areas of ‘popular’ yoga to avoid calling out the breath alongside the flow of the yoga poses. This is like telling someone to eat healthily but without any vegetables! It just doesn't make sense.
In a LLiV Yoga class there are 3 words /phrases you’ll hear over and over again:
“Inhale” “Exhale” “Get in to your breath”
By fully engaging your breath in yoga, you’re triggering some major benefits to your physical and psychological wellbeing and stress levels.
And I think we can all agree we could do with a bit less stress and a bit more wellbeing in our lives.
Slowing, controlling and deepening your breathing calms your nervous system, body and mind. In a nutshell – it’s really, really good for you - especially in this 21st Century world where our baseline stress level is pretty much continually elevated.
Think about when you’re stressed: your breathing becomes shallow, tight, and high – up near your collar bones. Your body is in a state of tension and coiled like a tight spring, ready to jump in to action to get you the hell out of trouble.
Your brain doesn’t differentiate between physical, emotional or psychological stress, real or imagined. So it gets your body ready for action whenever it senses you’re in danger, whether that situation is a real confrontation like being mugged, or worrying about whether you might lose your job (which may never happen). This is the stress response, which when engaged repeatedly and long term, is really damaging for your body.
When you’re calm your breathing softens, deepens and lengthens, and you use more of your lungs. This tells your brain you’re safe and in turn it tells your body it can relax. This is the relaxation response, which is good for your body and promotes repair, healing, good digestion and recovery.
Now what’s important is that you can control the messages you send your brain and consciously influence whether your body goes in to the stress or relaxation response. When you choose to breathe deeply you trigger the relaxation response.
So you can determine your state of wellbeing just by choosing to control how you breathe.
When you’re in a yoga class, by consciously deepening your breath you’re oxygenating your body and fuelling it’s movement, but you’re also calming your whole body and nervous system, letting it know you’re safe, and allowing it to let go of stress and tension.
You’re also becoming more focused on the present moment like in meditation – pulling your mind away from anxiety about the future or regrets about the past – and being more aware of what your body is doing in that moment.
If you sat in a room for an hour and focused on your breathing alone, the impact on your body and stress levels would be significant. Conscious breathing combined with the physical movements of yoga – where you’re also stretching out tense muscles, realigning the structure and energy flow of your body – profoundly impacts your wellbeing.
Learning to breathe consciously is also a tool that can be used throughout your life, not just on the yoga mat. Use it to balance your emotional state, calm your mind, focus and get perspective, and create wellbeing in your body.
The breath is such a simple tool, and powerful beyond measure. It’s a practice and one that is easy to forget in every day life. So you can think of a yoga class as a workout, a healing session for your body and mind, and also a training session for the tool of breathing.
If you're interested in knowing why we do the things we do in a LLiV Yoga class, check out these blogs:
Why we sigh, groan and roar in yoga
Why we say Namaste in Yoga
What Makes LLiV Yoga Different
Why we activate our feet in yoga
Why we OM in Yoga
Be more of who you are...
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