We’re always told in stressful situations to ‘just breathe’. It’s clear that focusing on breathing can be constructive, however, most of us prioritise our time elsewhere. Whenever I ask why this is, I’m often met with the same answer: ‘I’m too busy to do that’ or ‘ I could be doing something else with that time’. What if breath could make you more productive and calmer at the same time?
In Yoga, breathing exercises are named ‘pranayama’ which translates to ‘extension of life force’. The practice of pranayama or just deepening the breath has many positive effects on the body, starting with the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing the heart and breathing rate, preparing the body for rest and relaxation. It reduces the effects of anxiety and depression, allowing the mind to focus on one thing instead of plenty. The mind often gets distracted with more than one focus – practicing meditation, mindfulness and pranayama helps to limit this and therefore we are able to concentrate solely on one task at a time, improving productivity.
Calming the mind and body is important. According to a recent study completed in 2018, 85% of adults based in the UK experience regular noticeable stress and 54% of people worry about how this may be affecting their health. In fact, the practise of pranayama can have a positive effect on many symptoms of stress; such as improved function of the lungs, improved circulation, reduced risk of heart disease, lowering blood pressure, migraine and headache relief and gastric problems.
Pranayama can be done anywhere. It doesn’t have to take long, and can make you calmer, more productive and improve your health at the same time. I have listed 3 of my favourite techniques of pranayama:
- Samavritti breath
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Dirga pranayama
If breath work is something you want to start doing but aren’t confident with using a technique listed above, just try counting the inhale and exhale (similar to samavritti, however, can be more effective by lengthening the exhale). Attending a yoga class will also teach you some techniques that you can use, and should help to build confidence with pranayama.