A few weeks ago you might have read Part I (Body) of our three part series on how yoga boosts mental health–how a personal yoga practice can bring calm and equanimity to a stressed out world. Here is the second of 3 simple techniques that you can start experiencing the transformative effects of yoga in your life.
Breathing exercises are often simple, but not always easy. Our mind will continue to wander back into the old patterns that are familiar, so our work is to keep leading our attention back to the movement of our breath. Because it is helpful to connect to the physical body when we are stuck in our heads, we will continue to connect to our bodies in our breathing.
- Sit upright or lay down comfortably.
- Sense the feeling of your breath moving through your nose.
- Slow down your breathing so that you can count to 3 or 4 while you inhale, and again when you exhale. If at any point you feel short of breath, try to return to natural breathing.
- Place your hands down low on your belly, below the navel. Try to get your inhale to expand the belly outward, and let your exhale soften the belly. You will feel this moving your hands.
- Repeat for 10 to 20 breaths at a time, at least once a day.
- When your mind wanders away, just invite it back to the sensation of your hands moving on your belly, or to the air moving through your nose.
Our breath represents the present moment. Air is either moving in or moving out at any given moment. When our minds are stuck in past stories, or jumping ahead into anxiety about the future, the breath gives us a focal point in the present.