Yoga – Exploring the Breath-Mind Connection

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You hear people say that when you get frustrated or angry you should “take a deep breath and count to ten.” We can’t vouch for the counting to ten part, but taking a deep breath is an excellent piece of folk wisdom. Deep breathing really can calm your nerves. It can relax and center you. Some people can even control the amount of pain they feel with breathing techniques. This ability is one of the reasons why, in prenatal clinics, expectant mothers study breathing techniques to control and help ease the pain of childbirth.

Breathing affects your state of mind, and for that reason, you can use breathing techniques that are supportive in cultivating a different state of mind. After you try these techniques, you may be delighted to find that you can change the mood you’re in by breathing consciously and by paying attention to how you breathe. Your brain requires more oxygen than most other parts of your body. Supply it with the oxygen it needs to get more clarity of thought and to be able to concentrate for longer periods of time. Better breathing also affects your overall well-being. You get a greater sense of control over your happiness. In short, you feel more grounded and happier. You’re more awake to the world around you and keener to enjoy that world.

To explore and experience a yoga-with-weights workout to the highest degree, we encourage you to focus on the sensations of your breathing. The mind doesn’t wander as much if you establish a deep and rhythmic breath. When you catch your mind wandering (and it will wander), you can pull it back to the exercises by concentrating on your breath. Look at it this way: Imagine that your wandering mind is like a boat being pulled out to sea by the tide, but the boat is secured to a rope you hold in your hands. As the boat is floating away, you gently pull it back one breath at a time until your thoughts come back home to your body.

Besides helping you focus, conscientious breathing has an added benefit — it makes your workout safer. In weight training, many injuries take place due to repetitive stress; improper alignment; and throwing the weight around, which aggravates joints, tendons, and muscles. If you’re distracted, preoccupied, or lackadaisical when you work out, you invite injury. Watch a person who has a great yoga-with-weights practice, and you notice his or her intense level of commitment and concentration. You see this person breathing in a deep and real way. Breathing helps you concentrate on your body so you know precisely how much effort and strength to put into the exercises without hurting yourself. The self-awareness that comes with conscientious breathing can actually help prevent injuries.

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