What makes us feel stressed?… Lots of things according to a recent survey, including deciding what to eat for lunch, our phone battery running out and overcrowded gyms. These apparently are among the worries that add up to over two hours of stress each day! Finding a balance between home and work and lack of time for ourselves are particularly stressful.
The survey also revealed that people rarely feel ‘great’. Just one in eight said they have a ‘feel good’ moment more than once a month and stress, lack of sleep and financial pressures were some of the reasons given for preventing people from feeling good.
Our emotions affect us physically and when we are feeling stressed we tend to tense up muscles and our breathing becomes shallow and irregular. When we are feeling happy and calm our posture is more relaxed and our breathing responds by becoming smooth and even.
Breathing is something we often take for granted, but it’s interesting how many expressions there are in the English language which are related to breathing and which recognise its power e.g we say something or someone is ‘like a breath of fresh air’, that we are waiting’ with bated breath’ and we tell others not to ‘waste their breath’ or ‘hold their breath’.
Yoga recognises the important connection between the body, breath and mind and breathing is an important part of the practice. For example movement is linked to breathing and in yoga we are encouraged to take the awareness to the breath – which eventually helps steady the mind. I remember my yoga teacher reminding the class to breathe when we did different postures and not to hold the breath.
If we are feeling stressed in daily life it is helpful to start to focus on the out breath and to slow down the exhalation allowing it to go on for as long as we can, which magically helps us breathe in more smoothly and effortlessly.
Sometimes breathing out a few times through the open mouth can really help us let go, such as sighing or blowing the breath away. Another technique is to focus on the flow of breath at the nostrils or the rise and fall of the abdomen as we breathe and to allow the breath to become deeper and steadier, maybe taking a count to the breath. As we become absorbed in our breathing we start to feel calmer and also good breathing makes us feel better and healthier.
So it’s worth remembering that the way we breathe affects our whole body, mind and emotions. Many breathing exercises can be done anywhere and at any time. They are a good way to relax and hopefully give us that ‘feel good’ moment and that all important ‘breathing space’ from our busy lives..