"Conscious Breathing Is My Anchor"
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Most of us accept that the only constant in life is change; but transformation generally happens over a long period of time. Currently, every day (hour?) brings new changes that affect our lives. Change is always difficult and many of us feel that we are on a rollercoaster of emotions at the moment.
Yoga teaches us that by employing slow, conscious, abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing, we can anchor ourselves and our emotions. And the amazing thing? This practice, that was established thousands of years ago, can now be proven scientifically. We now know that this type of controlled breathing stimulates the Vagus Nerve and activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which is responsible for our “Rest & Digest” response; the opposite of “Fight or Flight”.
“Fight or Flight” is an essential response to danger. A bit of excitement in life is what keeps it interesting. But it is also essential to our well-being that we let go of that response when it is no longer needed or useful. Certainly, there is plenty in life that needs addressing, but we are more effective when we approach it calmly.
So, when something comes along to negatively affect your feelings and emotions, focus on your slow exhalation, drawing in the abdomen, then release and the air will naturally expand the lungs before your next conscious, long, exhalation.
Breath is the cornerstone of all yoga practices. But yoga is more than what happens on the mat, it is also about how we live our lives off the mat. And this awareness of how we are feeling – physically, mentally and emotionally – together with an understanding of how we can actively influence these feelings, is at the centre of how yoga moves from being just an exercise class, to a way of living.
Moving with the breath is the main focus of all my classes, whether they are the slow Mellow Mondays or the more dynamic flowing classes. By keeping the focus on the breath, we can start to bring the body, breath and mind into unison.
As Desikachar says in ‘The Heart of Yoga’: “The breath is the link between the inner and outer body.”