When teaching yoga I often see people holding their breath in certain postures - you will often hear me say 'and remember to breathe...'. Something as automatic and obvious as breathing can sometimes get forgotten about when we are trying to focus on something else, find ourselves in stressful sitautions, during public speaking or during busy periods in life. We may still be 'breathing' but often we are not breathing fully and properly.
Something else I will often say in yoga is to 'breathe fully into the belly' - ensuring the breath doesn't remain shallow and high up in the chest to ensure we are getting full benefit from the oxygen coming into our body. During the Winter course I worked on introducing a concept called the 'Total Breath' breathing practice into yoga lessons - this essentially sets up the conditions to slow down the breath, to five breaths per minute, with an equal length inhale (six seconds) and equal length exhale (six seconds). This simple breathing practice, combined with some gentle movement and visualisation practices for 20 minutes per day has the ability to rebalance the nervous system, reduce anxiety, improve oxygen levels in the blood and overall improve our whole level of health and wellbeing.
Sounds revolutionary but we really can improve our health through something as simple as breathing properly for just a short period every day. I will be continuing with some of these breathing practices during the Summer course, but for those who like to read up on the background, the details and the benefits further, my book recommendation for you this month is 'The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions' by Richard P. Borwn and Patricia L Gerbarg. It comes with an instructional CD of ten breathing practices that you might like to try.
Wanting to experiment further with this, I recently have been trying out these breathing practices on my dad, who unfortunately has a chronic lung condition. With reduced levels of oxygen on a regular basis, we have tried measuring the oxygen levels in his blood with an oximeter and after just five minutes of the breathing practice have seen very good improvements in his levels. Enough for my dad, who is very sceptical of such practices, to do this every day now for around ten minutes to help him improve his daily life. I strongly believe in these practices and highly recommend them to anyone who may wish to improve their overall wellbeing.