Did you know there is a direct link between the breath and the mind?
So before you carry on reading, pause, take a deep breath in, a long breath out.
We have all heard the “take a deep breath” advice, in stressful or difficult situations, but often we forget how powerful our breath is and how deep its effects can be. I want to share a recent experience with you.
On our last holiday, my partner asked me to go diving with him. I really didn’t feel comfortable at the idea of not being able to breathe fresh air through the nose for almost an hour, but also didn’t want to let him down. So I agreed with the diving centre, I would do the induction in the pool and then let them know whether I was going to the ocean or not.
As we were training in the pool, my heart started pounding, I felt slightly sick and almost quit.
Then I told myself that if yoga had taught me an important lesson, it was to be in control in situations where I was out of my comfort zone, to use the magical power of the breath to calm the mind. So I closed my eyes, held my hands together, and deepened my breath. As the inhales and exhales slowed down, I felt calmer and I kept saying to myself ‘you have got this’. I went underwater again in the pool and stayed a little bit longer.
When it was time to dip into the ocean, I was still nervous, but I kept telling myself I COULD do it.
‘I AM SAFE AND IN CONTROL, I TRUST I KNOW HOW TO CONTROL MY MIND THROUGH THE BREATH’ – WAS MY PERSONAL MANTRA
I was underwater 45 minutes, I felt calm and enjoyed every minute.
This incredible experience become one of the highlights of the holiday. Two days later I went back for a second dive. I knew all I had to do was use the breath properly, be in the moment, and I’d be OK.
Had I not had this skill, I would have missed out on the experience entirely. I’m continuously grateful for what I learn on the mat. In particular for what I can take off the mat and apply to life.
How does this stuff work?
More and more scientific studies have proven there is a direct link between breathing and cognitive functions. It was recently discovered this is especially true when breathing happens through the nose. [Although this wasn’t my case when I went diving, I can assure you, even consciously breathing through the mouth made an incredible difference].
Slow, conscious, breathing calms the nervous system by reducing the heart rate and reduces the feelings of stress and anxiety.
Oprah Winfrey sums this up in a beautiful quote in her book What I know for sure: “What I know for sure is that your breath is your anchor, the gift we’ve all been given, to center ourselves in this very moment. […] Nothing is more effective than a deep, slow inhale and release for surrendering what you can’t control and focusing again on what’s right in front of you”.