“Breathing Is Essential!” I hear Jane Fonda say in a singsong voice from the TV screen.
I raise my eyebrow and snort out of my nose. I’m in the middle of doing a side leg lift, hands on my hip and I’m feeling extra ridiculous. “Oh really, Jane?”
That was years ago.
Please don’t ask me why I used to do Jane Fonda workout videos. It was just something my friend and I did for giggles, ok?
But to this day, I’ve never forgotten about that Jane Fonda workout. OR that ridiculous quote ringing in my head…
“Breathing is essential!”
Of course it is.
It’s a fact so OBVIOUSLY true, that oh my god, do you really need to say it?
But yes, actually you do. You do need to say it. And then repeat it. Again and again. Because most people don’t think about the importance of their breath.
Or how the quality of your breath can affect the state of your mind.
Many of our important emotions (ie. joy, fear, anger, sadness) are associated with a signature breathing pattern. A recent article from Acne Einstein‘s blog breaks down four different signature breathing patterns.
Basically, when you’re relaxed, you tend to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. Your breathing pattern is regular.
But when you’re stressed or angry or anxious about something, your breathing pattern changes. It becomes shallow, irregular and your ribcage becomes tense.
Even without thinking about it, your body’s breathing patterns change with your emotions. But this connection between our minds and our breaths isn’t a one-way street.
Things can also go the other way.
If you can control your breath, you can also begin to control your emotions.
Yoga as a Stress-Buster
When we let stress run amok in our lives, it can wreak damage to our physical health. And the health of our skin.
Stress and acne are strongly linked together (in my case, I would even say that it CAUSED my acne). It can flare up eczema and rosacea. And it can keep us from getting the most out of our much needed beauty sleep.
But in the face of a stressful situation, if we consciously relax our muscles and control our breaths to become deep, slow and regular breaths, we can reduce and disperse the feeling of stress.
Control over your breathing patterns means the ability to keep stress at bay.
And this is why I constantly encourage people to practice Yoga.
Yoga is amazing at keeping your body physically fit and keeping flexibility in your spine! What’s more, the breathing exercises and lessons that you learn from yoga are incredibly valuable.
Before you can control your breathing patterns, you must first become familiar with the way you breathe while being completely relaxed.
And the best yoga pose for this is one that’s so simple you wouldn’t even think that you’re doing yoga…
SAVASANA: Complete Relaxation
Savasana (also known as Corpse Pose) is usually the pose that you take on at the end of your yoga practice.
To take on the Savasana pose, you basically lie on your back, with the weight of your body evenly distributed throughout and your spine properly aligned. Then you allow yourself to completely melt into relaxation.
The best place to practice Savasana is on the floor because it provides a firm and even surface. You can place a blanket under the length of your body. Also, to keep your body from getting cold, be sure to cover up with socks and a long sleeved shirt.
This is the best time to become familiar with your relaxed breathing pattern.
During Savasana, you can actively practice diaphragmatic breathing.
This is a deep, calm type of breathing that allows the maximum amount of oxygen to enter the bloodstream:
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
- Breathe in slowly and evenly through your nose.
- When you breathe in, the hand on the abdomen should rise slightly higher than the one on the chest.
- Exhale slowly and evenly through your mouth.
- Find a regular rhythm between your inhalations, holding the breath in and exhalations.
- You can deepen the breathing by exhaling more air, so try gently contracting the abdominal muscles to evacuate any remaining air from the lungs.
- During exhalations, release any contraction of your muscles.
- Close your eyes and relax your eye muscles.
- Soften your tongue, your jaw and the skin on your forehead.
Even though this is a relaxation exercise, Savasana does require some effort to keep your mind focused. Your mind may tend to wander over to your worries or start going over your day’s To-Do list. But if this happens, just gently bring your mind back to the present moment.
Ideally, you would do Savasana right after a yoga session.
But even if you don’t practice yoga, you can and you should practice this simple pose!
Try doing this relaxing exercise at least once every day, right before getting out of bed or right before falling asleep.
I promise it will change your life!
Breathe – by Shawn Rossi. Creative Commons License. Used with attribution.
Corpse Pose – by Yana Stowe of givemeballroom.com. Used with permission.