BY PAUL GALLORO, B.MSC
YOGA THERAPIST AND SOUL COACH
As humans, we have both voluntary and involuntary control over our breath. Don’t think about it, and your breathing will be at the affects of whatever is going on in your mind at the time (stressful thoughts cause short, shallow breaths, peaceful thoughts cause long, deep breaths). When you’re conscious of it, and therefore in control, you are harnessing what the ancient yogis call prana, your life force.
Conscious breathing leads to awareness of the present moment, which allows you to make conscious choices and create a life that accentuates your joy and truth. Something as simple as a 10 second breathing technique is all it takes for you to shift your mind from chaos to clarity.
The following breath practices from my webinar during canfitpro’s Mental Wellness Week allow you to harness your prana and use it to support your daily life.
Smile breathing is one of my favourite techniques and I use it to refresh my energy when I’m switching gears. For example, when I’m between clients or moving from an activity that requires my brain to one that requires my body.
- Inhale, then slowly exhale through your nose and lower your chin to chest and close your eyes
- Inhale and lift your head
- Exhale and open your eyes
People who try this technique say they feel a shift in their energy, a little lighter and more present. Give it a try!
DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING WITH WHISPER BREATH
This is a straightforward breath practice with multiple benefits. It may help to calm you down in moments of stress and anxiety, or energize you when feeling tired. When in doubt, diaphragmatic breathe it out! (Yeah, I know … I’m working on the catchphrase).
- Inhale through your nose and fill the bottom of your lungs to expand your abdomen, then slowly exhale. Place your hand on your abdomen if you need to bring awareness to this expansion at first. Repeat this a few times until you get the hang of it.
- Inhale through your nose to fill your abdomen and continue breathing into the midsection of the lungs to expand your ribcage, and slowly exhale. Repeat this until you sense an ease in your breathing.
- Inhale slowly through your nose to fill your abdomen, expand your ribs, and then into the top of your lungs, and exhale slowly. Do your best to keep the shoulders down and relaxed. Place a hand on your upper chest for focus.
- Breathe into all three parts, abdomen, ribs, and chest, for a count of 4 or 5, and exhale slowly for a count of 4 or 5. Adjust the count to your level of comfort, keeping it even for a balancing effect.
Many people say they feel grounded and more present after practicing this technique. You can play with the energy by changing the count of your breath. A longer inhale/shorter exhale will energize, and a shorter inhale/longer exhale will promote relaxation.
To add the whisper breath, practice part 4 as outlined above, but with a slight constriction in the back of your throat. It will sound like a light snore, or waves of the ocean.
STAIR STEP BREATHING
This energizing practice is great for new-to-breathwork clients because it gives the mind something to do.
I use the image of climbing a set of stairs and sliding down a slide for the first part, and taking an elevator to the top floor and taking the stairs down for the second.
- Inhale little sips of breath to fill your lungs (around 6 to 10) [steps up the ladder]
- Hold for 4 counts [sitting at the top of the slide]
- Exhale slowly for 6 counts [sliding down the slide]
- Repeat steps 1-3 two more times
- Next, inhale for a smooth count of 6 [elevator to the top floor]
- Hold for 4 counts [exiting the elevator]
- Exhale little puffs through the nostrils (around 8 to 10) [steps down the staircase]
- Repeat steps 5-7 two more times
- Inhale in little sips until the lungs are filled (like step 1), hold for 4 counts, exhale little puffs (like step 7). Repeat this twice.
- End with inhaling little sips (like step 1), hold for four, exhale for 6 counts or longer (like step 3). Repeat this twice.
Once you’ve completed all ten steps, return to a natural breathing pattern and be still for a moment.
Note: Stair Step Breathing should be avoided if you’ve had recent abdominal or chest surgery. For pregnancy, practice only sipping on the inhale.
A regular breath practice not only calms your nervous system, it also trains your mind to be more focused. This is what the ancient yogis call meditation. It takes practice and discipline, but in as little as 10 days you will begin to experience a massive shift in your mind, body, and spirit.
If you’re ready to explore a daily practice of breath work and visualization, check out my 40 Days of Stillness program designed to help you go from chaos to clarity and gain control over your life.
canfitpro members save $63 off this program with code CANFITPRO at checkout.