Yoga Over 45

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One of my teachers recently put it like this: Linking yoga to our breathing is what makes yoga yoga.

It's so true. In yoga, breathing is as important as the poses themselves. In most other forms of exercise we rarely consciously think of or try to control our breathing, but here's 10 good reasons why focusing on your breahting can make you feel so much better.

  1. Focusing on your breath helps you reduce stress or anxiety.
    Unconscious breathing is controlled by the primitive area of our brain, which controls our emotions. Conscious breathing is controlled by the more evolved part of the brain, or the pre-frontal cortex.

    Why does this matter? By consciously breathing, the cortex takes control of the emotions, reducing feelings of stress, anxiety or other negative emotions.

    You've probably heard how when you're angry or stressed it's good to breathe more deeply - well that's why. You're using your breathing to affect your mood. In yoga - linking the breath with calm, controlled movements makes this calming influence even more pronounced.

  2. Focusing on your breathing helps you become more "present."

    Andy Puddicombe (creator of "Headspace") asks - "When was the last time you took just 10 minutes to "do nothing?" To just become "present" in the moment?

    He says - and I agree: "The sad fact is that we are so distracted, (with the minutiae of our lives) that we become no longer present in the world in which we live." Our mind is constantly racing from one thing to another, and together with all the accompanying emotions all this does is serve to make us feel tired, drained or constantly hyped up.

    Taking even a few minutes to lose those distracting thoughts and just "be" - can be a wonderfully refreshing feeling.

    If you've ever been on holiday, or on a walk or just sitting in your garden enjoying the moment, you'll know how good that feeling is.

    By focusing on your breathing you bring your attention away from what else is going on in your life right now, and turn it inward - to your body. You become more present to how you feel. You tune in to your emotions more, and even just a few minutes of being present can help you unwind, de-stress and even start to make more intelligent, helpful decisions about how you live your life.

    It can really be as profound as that. Take a look at Andy speaking about this in one of the TED talks:

  3. How we breathe directly affects our health.

    Oxygen is the most vital component for our survival and breathing is one of the ways in which our bodies get rid of waste products and toxins from our body.

    The problem is, most of us rarely breathe as we were meant to - using all of our lungs. We slouch at our desks, or in our cars or on our sofas. We spend a lot of time in environments where the air is less than optimal for health. We have stressful lives, and this anxiety makes us breathe more shallowly.

    Pranayama is about developing more control of our breathing so we bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain and to control what yogis call "prana" or life force/energy. There is growing evidence to support that breathing more consciously can help prevent major illnesses and cure minor ailments.

So the next time you practise - remember to focus on your breathing! It'll do you the power of good!

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Shona Garner

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