Focussing on the breath is one of the most powerful aspects of introducing a yoga practice to your life.
Pranayama refers to a selection of breathing techniques used in order to control (yama) the prana (life force energy)
Often feedback from classes refer to better sleep, calmer mind and more joy. Although the postures play a key role with this, I believe the breathing practice is what really helps to support us in feeling our best.
The breathing becomes the anchor for which we can keep returning to during the physical postures.
Long mindful breathing during a posture that requires lots of resilience and muscular endurance helps us to withhold the posture and find a deeper strength that we might not have felt possible before.
Often without realising it, we shorten the breath and therefore the prana-flow is limited. If you ever find yourself feeling anxious or nervous, you may well notice that the breath is short and rapid. Learning to breathe from the lower belly, allowing it to fill the entire torso...taking that full breath in and out, is not only a practice that benefits our yoga on the mat, but life off of the mat.
During times of anxiety or stress, we can bring our practice into life. 4 Inhale, 4 Exhale and soon enough we feel softer. If the breath can help us through one more round of firey chair pose or a strong warrior 2, then when we are experiencing troubling times during life off the mat, the breath can be used to work through the moment.
Introducing Pranayama into your daily life is as simple as brushing your teeth!
Here are a few simple pranayama exercises you can introduce morning or evening or even better BOTH.
4:4 Breath in and out for a count of 4
This encourages us to lengthen through our breathing
It calms the mind and provides an anchor for us to focus on
Becoming a meditative practice
4:6 Breath in for 4 and out for 6
This is especially good for if you are in need of a calm down, a slightly longer exhale will allow the nervous system to relax and for you to feel lighter.
Try either of these ratios for anywhere from 2-10 minutes and notice how differently you feel afterwards.