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Pranayama & Mindfulness

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

Pranayama is the 4th Limb of Yoga. In the West it’s often translated as breath, however it is much more than just breathing, or your breath. 

Definition of Pranayama:

“Prana” means life force or breath sustaining the body. “Ayama” translates as "to extend or draw out." Together the two mean breath extension or control.

Amazing Facts About Your Breath

1. You can go for weeks without food, days without water, but only a few minutes without breathing.

2. Breathing has an immediate impact on your mind and body. Even the act of inhaling versus exhaling affects your nervous system differently.

3. It’s common to train in nutrition, physical exercise, and even hydration. But almost no one trains in, with, or about Pranayama (breath), which is a huge missed opportunity for health-seekers.

4. Breathing changes your blood PH (acidic / alkaline) in minutes. No food, exercise, or medication can act as quickly.

5. You can determine your dominant nervous system state simply by placing your finger underneath your nostrils and exhaling.

6. Reduced rate of breathing stimulates your "rest and digest" response, as well as your "parasympathetic nervous system" state (which helps with sleep, stress, and anxiety).

7. Rapid, pulsed breathing stimulates your "sympathetic nervous system" response (which increases energy, prepares for exercise, and/or boosts your body’s natural defences).

8. "Diaphragmatic breathing" massages your "Vagus Nerve" (which reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress).

9. Severe respiratory conditions like asthma can be successfully managed by increasing CO2 levels in your blood.

10. Breathing exercises help reduce fear of public speaking, insomnia, stress, anxiety, and can help improve digestion.

In my yoga classes you will often hear me refer to breath as your “life breath” - because without breath is death.

Definition of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness means to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. When you practice mindfulness, your thoughts tune into what you’re sensing in the present moment, rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

The practice of mindfulness is beneficial for your whole body: physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual. Bringing your mind to stillness is not easy, it takes time and effort (practice). However, the more you practice, the better able you will be to bring your mind to stillness. 

CHALLENGE TODAY: Practice Mindfulness

- Sit in a comfortable lotus position, with either your knees bent or your legs straight out in front of you.

- Set a timer for 5 minutes.

- Close your eyes and focus on your breath flowing in and out of your nostrils.

- When you notice your mind has wandered into thinking, planning, and/or remembering - without judgement - you simply come back to notice your next breath.

- Over and over, you come back to notice your next breath; you come back to notice your next IN breath and your next OUT breath.

** In those moments when you feel overwhelmed and / or stressed .... honour yourself and give yourself the gift of your own presence (it only takes 5 minutes of mindfulness to change your perspective).

Have a great day! 🙏

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