Many years ago, while studying to be a yoga teacher, I spent several hours in a course called “How to Breathe” in hopes of bringing some additional insight into how to get the most from my breathing practice.
At first, I thought the course would be redundant and cover things I learned in previous yoga courses, but this course, as it turned out, was different. It not only introduced me to new breathing techniques and methods, it introduced me to effective ways to breathe, including how to bring more consciousness to my breathing in order to better use it as a tool for healthier overall living.
From that course, here are three techniques I learned to help find one’s centre in any given situation:
1. Diaphragm breathing: This is the basis for all breathing techniques since it is intended to help you use your diaphragm correctly. Known as “belly breathing” in the yoga world, using the diaphragm gives us an effective breath, since it helps us to use more of the lung’s capacity and get a fuller, deeper breath. Shallow breathing – or breathing solely with the chest, instead of deeply, using the diaphragm – takes less oxygen into the lungs, making it a less effective breath. This, and other important details about breathing more consciously, was learned during the yoga course I took.
2. Pranayama, the cooling breath: Poised to whistle, take an inhalation instead, pulling the cool breath over the tongue and into the throat. This “cooling” is believed to help settle the nervous system and help us focus in stressful times. This technique is part of what the yoga world calls pranayama or “centred breath”. Although there is no scientific research to show the relationship between breathing cool air and reducing stress, according to one study from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, pranayama can help reduce stress while bringing the mind to the present moment. Give the cooling breath technique a try.
3. Stoplight breathing: This is more of a trick than a technique, but it acts as a reminder to take time every day for conscious breathing. Using red streetlights as an alarm clock of sorts, whether you’re driving a car, riding a bike, or taking public transit, when the light turns red, let it serve as a reminder to take as many slow, deep breaths as you can using your diaphragm. Give it a try at the next stoplight on your route.