If you’ve ever been told to “just breathe” after getting stressed or tired, you probably wondered, “How hard can it be?” After all, we do it involuntarily. But apparently, efficient breathing is an art that in some cases takes a few minutes to learn—and a lifetime to master.
Inhale, exhale, relax
Why is breathing mindfully a calming exercise in the first place? “It quietly relaxes the central nervous system and awakens the parasympathetic system which brings a sense of relaxation,” EchoYoga instructor Jeannie Javelosa shares. “The actual physical benefit of proper breathing technique is to calm our body, emotions and mind, which can be accessed through calming the central nervous system.”
Controlled breathing has its benefits. Chiropractor Serry Pizarro, D.C., enumerates them: “Breathing allows us to relax, allow[s] more oxygen in, [makes us] also focus on something else—[like] on [ourselves]. We have [stress] in our lives, but don’t take the time to focus. ... Breathing out with control and completely allow[s] the lungs and diaphragm to relax, even the belly, to not tighten up or let the muscles [be on] guard.”
Oxygen is essential for the human body, and the way we breathe matters. So why don’t we breathe through our mouth, with its bigger inhaling capacity? Certified Bikram Yoga instructor Gino Scarella explains: “Mouth-breathing on a physical level tends to leave our nervous system prone to panic. There's no more control. The awareness of the breath is lessened when through the mouth and breathing merely becomes a means to an end—not a vessel of connection, as would be if we breathe through the nose.” There is also a more scientific reason to opt for nasal breathing: The nose is equipped with the necessary accessories to filter, warm and humidify the air we inhale for more optimal gas exchange.
In Bikram, beginners are encouraged to focus on the breathing exercises, keeping their eyes open to stay in the present moment and last through the 90-minute session, in a heated room that keeps muscles conditioned, while performing 26 poses in unison.
Javelosa, who espouses the philosophy that proper breathing is the primary foundation of a good yoga session, enlightens us on what a relaxing breath entails: “The proper breathing technique can be defined as a slow rhythmic inhale where breath is brought into the depths of the belly, into the space of the lungs at our backs. Then a long, surrendering exhale that just releases all and everything alongside this. Then repeat.”
Calming mind and breath
So you’ve caught yourself stressing out over something again. Can willing yourself to breathe deeply and mindfully have any effect? Scarelli, Pizarro and Javelosa assure us that something seemingly simple can give us some form of calm.
“Mindful breathing is about total awareness of the breathing process, its flow, its sensory effects, and all the other subtle nuances that the way [you breathe] can bring to the body and mind,” muses Javelosa. “When we are mindful, we will become aware if our breathing is rapid, shallow, controlled, flowing or soft. All these will reflect the state of our mind.”
Channeling a negative emotion into something less distressing may take more than just a few breaths—but the important thing is to take that first meaningful lungful—and just let it go with your worries or cares.
Where to go:
Bikram Yoga Greenhills
Address: 3rd Floor Fox Square Bldg., 53 Connecticut St., East Greenhills, San Juan City
Telephone : (02) 721 8350
Address: Penthouse, Century Plaza Mansion, 120 Perea Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City
Mobile: (0906) 506 3958