Ever wonder why this is?
Why should we breathe in this pattern instead of breathing freely like we normally do?
There is a reason behind controlled breathing during asana practice. The answer in a nutshell is:
Control the breath, control your mind.
Active breathing; meaning slow, deep and conscious breathing calms us. Nasal active breathing affects the area of memory and emotions of our brain. It basically helps us take control of our mind.
The nervous system and yoga
The control of breath is essential for the practice of yoga. For asana, pranayama, meditation and the rest of the limbs because the breath is directly linked to our life force energy (Prana).
To be able to understand why the breath is so important in yoga and how they connect, we must explore the autonomic nervous system.
Autonomic Nervous System
It regulates things like your breath, heart rate, digestion, blinking, and many other functions. It acts on its own without you having to consciously do anything.
It has two aspects: the sympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of the “fight or flight” response to keep you safe from outside dangers and its activated by stress.
The second one is the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the “rest and digest” response that makes sure you relax and focus on other processes like digestion, increase gland activity and others.
The only aspect of our autonomic nervous system that we can take control over of is our breath. We can breathe consciously or unconsciously.
Focus on your breath when doing yoga
By controlling our breath we can control our parasympathetic nervous system. Our breath stimulates the vagus nerve which is in charge of regulating the nervous system responses among other functions.
Why is this important? If you control your breath you can control your nervous system and therefore how you react in stressful situations. In fact, if you are conscious of your breath, you can control how you react in any situation.
It’s a sequences of switches, you see?Your breath activates the ’relax and digest’ response. It directly affects the parasympathetic nervous system which is why after a yoga session most people usually come out relaxed, happy, stress-free.
Deep breathing => activate vagus nerve => activate parasympathetic system => Happy and calmed you!
Do you focus on your breath during your yoga practice? If so, how do you normally feel afterwards. Please share in the comments below!