Yoga, Breath And Mental Health

Woman practicing yoga

I am sitting here working on the asana and pranayama sequence for our yoga class, my theme is connecting with the breath.

Breath is a central part of the Viniyoga tradition which I teach, we know that changing our breath can change how we feel and bring us back to the moment. Not the ruminations of the past, or the worry for the future; but right here, right now.

But how do we do that? How do we get from our everyday breathing to yogic breathing? How can we bring it into our practice?

There are many types of pranayama (breathing techniques), the one most commonly used during asana practice is Ujjayi or victory breath. It involves a slight muscle constriction in the lower throat, which can make you sound a little like Darth Vader. Sounds complicated right?

Like most things in life it’s easier when learning some thing to work up to it.

Features of Ujjayi include:

  • The breath is slowed down
  • It is deeper and more lengthened than normal
  • It is consciously controlled
  • There is a slight constriction in the lower throat.

In asana work we match our movement to our breath inspiring a meditative quality in our practice; so when you are starting out, worry less about the slight constriction in the throat and begin by matching your movements with the inhale and exhale. See what it is to breathe in different postures. See how the breath changes as you move or stay in an asana.

As you progress you can lengthen and deepen the breath, allowing it to support and enhance your practice. Eventually get your teacher to show you how to make the constriction in the throat.

In short begin by noticing, and remember you don’t need to be able to do everything at once, after all ‘Atha Yoganushasanam’ Yoga sutra 1.1, the time for yoga is now, not when at some point in the future you can already do it.

Once we are proficient, yogic breathing like this can be used outside the classroom to soothe anxiety, stress and improve our mental health, by deactivating the adrenaline fuelled fight, fight or freeze, of the sympathetic nervous system, and activating the para-sympathetic nervous system, to bring us to a calm and restive state, whenever we need to relax.

If you’d like to find out more about the yoga I teach and the benefits of learning pranayama breathing techniques please click the button below.

Published by The Meditative Counsellor

As a fellow survivor and qualified registered therapist, I help women with difficult mothers feel better about themselves by providing a safe space for them to heal from their trauma and pain. My blog is dedicated to my thoughts, experiences and work in helping women to heal from their mother wounds and assisting women to find healthy support networks. I strongly believe that I have a duty to share my knowledge to empower women like you, to improve your mental health and wellbeing through holding a safe space for you to heal, providing therapy to hear you, so you can understand yourself, and education to give you the tools to empower yourself. If you would like to work with me do get in touch via the contact page or at charlotte@meditativecounsellor.com.

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