Calm Down, Relax, and Don’t Take a Deep Breath

Okay, so you’re stressed, your breathing is labored, and you need to calm down quick, and what does every one usually say? Take a deep breath. Well I’m telling you not to do that.

What?? Calming your breathing isn’t difficult at all, once you realize that the universe does most of the work for you. And when you are anxious, stressed or panicky, the universe will be nice enough to do half of the job for you to help calm you down, but you have to work with it and not fight it.

The universe will fill you up with air, oxygen, and prana (the life force), as long as you make space for it. The secret is in the exhale. When you feel unstable breathing, the last thing you want to do is keep taking in breaths of air, you may spark hyperventilation. You do not need to force air into your body, it fills up on its own.

What you should do is begin with an exhale, let out all of your air, fully and completely, and leave the inhale alone. You will see, it does it all by itself. Most of the time, the job of breathing is done automatically. The only “regulating” you need to do is increase your exhale to make more space for that precious air that is just waiting to pour into your body. The atmospheric pressure says so. You can’t stop it unless you purposefully resist it. The universe wants to fill you with life so much, so let it. Keep making the space for your prana and make sure you exhale completely and make some room for it!

This simple interpretation has done wonders for me. Whenever I would get upset, worried or start freaking out about something, I would try to calm my breathing by deeply inhaling and then exhaling. I still felt that something was being held and resisted inside of me and never felt 100% relief. When I just begin with the exhale, and then surrender to the inhale, it is the greatest relief in the world.

Happy breathing


Breathing Can Be Confusing

I’ve always embraced Yoga, but the breathing part of it (which is a huge part of it) was one of the most difficult to understand. I understand breath with movement. I try to follow along as best I could with the yoga instructors when they tell me to inhale and exhale and in my Yoga school we practiced many different techniques, like Kapalbhati, which is forcefully expelling all of your air in a rhythmic succession while seated in easy pose. I enjoyed Kapalbhati for a while, but somewhere inside of me, I wasn’t exactly fond of forcing anything in my body, especially my breath. I thought it must be important to honor your own breath, even if it was “faulty”.

I have had shallow and short breathing for as long as I remember, and have a tendency to hold my breath, especially when faced with what I view as a stressful situation. Shallow breathing can be the cause of anxiety, and it also deprives your body of rich oxygen.

I’ve heard numerous Yoga Teachers speak about how important the breath is and how pranayama is used to regulate and control the breath. And how you are supposed to breathe through your nose and not your mouth. Sometimes I just have to get the air in through my mouth when I am working hard and I just open it up and let it in. Even though I tried many breathing exercises and it did lead me to be aware of my breathing habits, I felt it never “cured” my “bad” breathing and only provided some relaxation for a short period of time and added to my confusion. Nicki Doane, the Ashtanga teacher would say, “with practice, your breath will lengthen.” (She is great and I love her Ashtanga Yoga for Beginners DVD)

Then I started to listen to and read about Leslie Kaminoff, the co-author of the famous “Yoga Anatomy” book. He stated breathing is nothing more than a shape change inside a body cavity. He said to picture a 3D sphere growing bigger and smaller and coincide the rhythm of the sphere changing shape with your breath. This worked like a charm. I felt once I visualized breathing as this circular 3-D object, I could connect to it in a logical way. I stopped thinking of breathing in a linear sense, going up and down my body, from my lungs to my belly. I can envision the process as a whole, and it is comforting to me and makes sense to me to think about it this way. I feel relieved that I finally know how to breathe and what is actually happening when I am breathing. Before this visual, I was forcing and manipulating my breath, no wonder it did not feel natural and I was way too hyper aware of my breath. I just envision the sphere and match its movements to my natural breath. Once I get use to the rhythm of the sphere and accept it, I can lengthen my inhales and exhales if I please, then go back to natural breathing and just observe. No pressure, no force, no manipulation. I like it that way. I don’t want to fight against my breath and I encourage everyone to feel acceptance of their breath as well.

Leslie also talks about pranayama as being “unobstruction” of the breath, not control or restriction of the breath. I am looking forward to study more of what Leslie Kaminoff has to teach and also will be attending one of his trainings in December in Princeton, NJ.

I love thinking holistically and viewing systems of the body as a whole, rather than dissecting and separating each part. This is what has me so excited about studying the body’s fascial network, rather than individualizing each muscle and separating it from the system. And besides, who wants to memorize every muscle in the body, not this yoga teacher!


Releasing Tension and Fears Through Yoga

Physical tensions can be created by mental blocks in the body. Mental blocks manifest physically. The physical symptoms can be a frozen shoulder, lower back pain or limited range of motion (ROM) in your hips. It may also be a closed heart.

If the energy center in your heart area is blocked, you may have stooping shoulders, your body movement may be physically closing up the heart center area.

When we feel tension we may also hold onto the breath and create a lock at the tension spot.

With Yoga practice, you learn learn to “release” those areas of tension.

You do not resist or stop at the tension, you lean into the tension and you relieve the tension, you move beyond the tension.

We breathe into it; a tight muscle, a limited ROM.

With practice with gentle slow patience and persistence, we release the tension, we create space, we open up.

Yoga helps you gently move past that tension and create flexibility.

You can apply this lesson of your physical body and to your mind and soul. Do not resist ugly thoughts and scary scenarios. Lean into them, see them for what they are, breathe through them and ask them why they are there.

Don’t let them stop your breath, and learn to move freely past the tension and go right through them and towards freedom.

Yoga Frees you and it flows through you.

Prana is the life force or the energy of the universe. We welcome it into us and it flows through us. Pranayama is the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises. It’s not just about breathing exercises. Manipulating the breath will not do much if you don’t realize what it is that you are doing. You are breathing into the tension in your body and soul (tension that was created from being born and living in this life) and you are moving and pushing yourself gently through the tension and blocks until your subtle energy pathways, (your prana channels; Nadis) are free and flowing.

Anything you are stuck at, whether it be physically or mentally, breathe into it and release into the tension, stop resisting, and press into that pressure and you will find freedom.

Don’t run away from your fears. Face them and do not deny them or resist them, look directly at them, lean into them, gently press back at them and you will eventually push through.

You will always win. It will take time, energy and commitment. But you will push through. Do so at a slow and steady pace.

Know yourself, know your limits and break through them ever so gently with time.

So many of us are afraid to let go because we fear change and fear losing the things that define us.

If you don’t like Yoga mumbo jumbo, that is OK. You don’t have to practice Yoga physically, you can just take something from the concept of Yoga and apply it to your life. If you don’t get it, that’s OK too. Like everything else in this world, it will come with time and practice if you are so inclined to pursue it. But if you are interested, you will never fully get it unless you stick to it and practice regularly. It just doesn’t magically reveal itself the first time you hear about it. But it will magically reveal itself one day, if you continue your practice. One day during a yoga session, you will just…”Get it”.

Then you become addicted. Addicted To feeling good, to caring about yourself and to caring about your health. Which includes your physical health and spiritual health.

If you want to practice, stick to it every week. Even if it is not every day. Commit to a weekly practice, start once a week, then twice. Before you know it every day you will need to center yourself, stretch and connect to that eternal part of you that wants to move past tension and live fully in each moment.