Pranayama and Yoga
Pranayama is a Hatha yoga practice and the forth of the eight limbs of yoga. The word “prana” means life force. It can be worked into your routine as part of an overall complete yoga practice. It encompasses breath control and gives you the ability to take control of your own mind, increasing mindfulness and presence in your daily activities, leaving distractions at bay. By fully being present, there are no anxious thoughts that can appear.
Focused, mindful breathing is so important for stress relief because it lowers blood pressure and respiration rate. The abdominal cavity below the navel presses on the vagus nerve, which connects the abdomen and gut to the hearth and brain. The brain then releases serotonin neurotransmitter, which contributes to feelings of happiness and well-being. This means that your brain in fact, has a direct connection to the breath and “belly breathing” can help keep stress under control. You have a quick way to turn down the stress and anxiety.
Diaphragm –> Abdominal Cavity –> Stomach (Vagus Nerve gets “pushed” on or activated here)
Belly Breathing Technique
Breathing (also called diaphragmatic breathing) using your belly, or “belly breathing” is the style that most effective in dissolving your stress. You can test out what type of breather you are by putting one hand on your belly or mid-section and then your other hand over your heart or chest area. Take a few breaths in and breath deep. Which section moves outward from your body? Is it the belly or the chest? Belly breathing should use your belly. In other words, when you belly breath, your belly should raise and move outward from your body. This is a signal that you are really breathing deep and focused breaths that can relax and calm the body. It means that the vagus nerve is being activated and therefor calming the body.
Good to know: This type of breathing is also incredibly helpful in sports, including running, and other physical activities and is known to prevent injury.