Yesterday started my FAVORITE part of summers in Pittsburgh – free yoga classes on Sunday down in Market Square! YAY YAY YAY!
I, unfortunately, forgot that it was also Open Streets (aka there would actually be people downtown), so by the time I found parking, and got into the square, the class was JUST about to start. I ended up in the second to last row – alllllllll the way back by Moe’s. It was a perfectly fine spot, the only problem was that in the beginning of class the sound wasn’t up loud enough so we couldn’t really hear. But, as the class went on, they adjusted the sound and it ended up being a great class.
It’s always challenging to focus on your yoga practice when, not only are there about 200 hundred people around you doing yoga, but there are other people walking around, chatting, going about their normal lives. I always enjoy the challenge because it really makes you focus on YOUR yoga practice. I know when I first started going I easily got caught up in the “Oh wow, look at that girl! Her trikonasana is perfect!” or “Holy shit! That guy just did a handstand from uttanasana to chaturunga dandasana!” (side note – can you tell I’m working on my sanskrit for yoga teacher training! HAHA)
So today, between the runners pounding the pavement around the square or the fact that I couldn’t hear SUPER well, I had an increasingly difficult time paying attention. But, that’s where I was in that moment and I honored that.
At one point the instructor said something that really caught my attention and brought me back to my mat and my practice. She said, “Breathing is one of the fastest ways to healing.” I actually stopped and thought about that statement for a moment.
Breathing is one of the fastest ways to healing.
Immediately my mind thought about how using deep breathing techniques can help disipate a bad stomach ache I may have or how doing a mindful meditation while chewing my food really seems to help my digestion work so much better.
She was so right! Breathing really IS one of the fastest ways to healing.
But why? Why is it? And I breathe continuously without thinking about it – so why isn’t my body super healed?
First off, most of the population doesn’t breathe correctly.
Yup, I said it. You’re probably not breathing correctly.
Want to prove me wrong? Do this quick test.
Place your right hand on your upper chest and your left hand on your abdomen in your navel area. Breathe normally.
If the right hand rises first, you are upper-chest breathing.
If the left hand rises first, you are deep diaphragm breathing.
(This super, scientific experiment was taken from the Huffington Post article, How To Breathe To Promote Healing)
“When we mainly use shallow upper-chest breathing, we reduce the efficiency of our lungs and the respiratory system. Compared to deep breathing, shallow breathing results in less blood flow and less productive distribution of the vital lymph fluids. It also reduces the amount of digestive juices available for the digestive process and weakens the functioning of various systems in the body.” (How To Breathe To Promote Healing)
If you’re breathing from your upper-chest, then you’re not breathing correctly and you’re not taking in enough oxygen for your body to do all of its normal functions AND to heal. When you breathe from your diaphragm you can have control over your parasympathetic nervous system. Having the ability to settle our nervous system down is an extremely beneficial tool and an ESSENTIAL tool for healing.
Whenever our parasympathetic nervous system is going out of control, the body shuts down all healing efforts and goes into high alert. The only functions that continue are the ones that we need to survive. That means all the extra stuff that our body SHOULD be doing doesn’t occur. Sure, this is fine for the occasional bear run in or the near car accident scare, but the problem in our society today is that we’re so stressed that our bodies are constantly in that high alert mode (better known as fight or flight). Paying attention more to our breath can help cut down on the stress in our lives and give us more control over our nervous systems.
Focusing on the act of breathing clears the mind of all daily distractions and clears our energy enabling us to better connect with the Spirit within. ~Author Unknown
These really aren’t new concepts at all. The Chinese reference to breath work as Qigong and in India/Yoga it’s referred to as Pranayama. For thousands and thousands of years, people have relied on breathing as a powerful tool to help awaken healing within their body. It seems breathing is something we take for granted now and don’t pay a ton of attention to.
Here is a great “1 Minute Breath” breathing exercise that can help you get your breath back to a place of healing!
Next time you feel stressed, or have pain, or have a stomach ache – pull out this 1 minute breath and give it a try! When we take in enough oxygen, our body expands, our blood flows more freely and our body is able to focus on healing.
Want more info on breathing for healing? Here are some articles for your reading pleasure!
Wishing You A Pain Free Day!