The Power of Breath
I will always remember the first few yoga classes I took in London. I just moved from Budapest and the gym nearby had a couple of classes a week on the schedule. Back in Hungary, I tried a lot of different types of exercise like aerobic, body pump and HIT, and these did not bring me much joy… Then I found pilates closer to my heart when my bestie convinced me to join her for a class. So when I started yoga in London, I wasn’t sure at all what to expect… but I soon fell in love with it and there was no return from there.
The first few classes, weeks, even months made me wonder why people say that yoga asana (postures) is so easy. Or that yoga is only stretching. I found constantly pushing myself, trying to stay on the mat for the full class. Going to balasana (child’s pose) only twice during the hour, was a success. I’d be sweating and having muscle aches for days after the classes, despite it all being standard, beginners’ Hatha yoga in style. Then teachers changed and a Slovakian yogi started teaching us. This was different. His focus was entirely on the breath. He thought us how to connect breath with movement, how to open our chests and allow the full flow of breath to support movements and postures. For example, at the beginning, it’s pretty hard to breathe in Virabhadrasana A (Warrior I). He explained to open our chest to be able to breathe; and in turn, the action of opening our chest results in more space, creating that very space for deeper breathing.
Does this focus on our breath help our everyday lives? When it comes to hobbies, for example, Pranayama (the breathing practices of yoga) helped me breathe under water during my scuba diving course and subsequent divings. If you’ve tried Scuba Diving before, you know that the first few dives can be rather nerve-wrecking, simply because it is unusual (or even unnatural) to breathe through your mouth. To calm my nerves, I turned to Nadi Shodana pranayama. Taking equal amounts of inhales and exhales, and not holding your breath are key instructions for a safe dive. In the Nadi Shodana technique, the blood receives a larger supply of oxygen than in normal breathing, so that one feels refreshed and the nerves are calmed. Novice scuba divers’ breath is elevated, using the tank of oxygen faster, shortening the length of the individual dives. The practice of Nadi Shodana helped me to reduce the usage of air under water without ever holding my breath; enabling a safe way to enjoy the aquatic life to the full.
To transfer this further to everyday life, another example can be brought to personal situations where one needs to control their nerves. The same breathing practice helped me through difficult client meetings in my corporate job, where confidence needed to be built up. I created stories around the reasons why I will fail during these meetings (simply enough: My business English not being good enough or my accent being too hard to understand…). Then, I learnt, that different pranayama can be secretly done in the meeting rooms, without anyone ever noticing! It helped calming me down, letting go of the negative story I pre-created prior to the experience and enabling higher concentration, power and clear business focus on the task.
We don’t necessarily notice that our breath is the first thing effected when our mental and physical body responds to negative and positive events. So, being able to have control over our breath is key to allow our parasympathetic nervous system to be stimulated, and our sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight mode) to be put to rest - allowing our cells, tissues, physical body as well as our mind and soul to repair, rejuvenate, re-energise. Pranayama is just one tool to help re-engage with our breath. A breath-focused asana practice, as well as yoga meditation alongside the breathing techniques can be helpful. Get in touch with Bobble if you’re interested to learn more!