Breathing correctly; inhaling in the diaphragm and exhaling a few deep breaths every day can make a drastic improvement in your lifestyle. Perhaps it sounds like an exaggeration to you, but I swear there is enough scientific evidence to support this statement.
In my opinion, breathing exercises and mindfulness in therapy are part of a client’s inner dialogue that can be canvassed into a dialogue and communication with the therapist. Gestalt therapy includes the body and the importance of breathing in the therapy room. The therapist needs to actively work with the client’s breath, and those are creative moments and sometimes surprising in their results.
There's increasing physiological evidence connecting breathing patterns with the brain regions that control mood and emotion. I think that we overlooked the importance of breathing for so long that the more we talk about its importance, the better.
And for this reason, I’ve decided to write a series of articles that will cover some variations of breathing practices, called Pranayama. So here is the first one!
Pranayama is a big part of the Kundalini Yoga practice. Working with the breath is a way of not only calming the mind, but increasing our life force. Fritz Perls, the psychiatrist and founder of Gestalt therapy, has pointed out, that the less breath you feed your fear, the bigger your fear gets. He once said:
‘Fear is excitement without the breath.’
So, to conquer your fear, you just need to breathe into it. He implied, that Fear and Thrill are similar, and in fact, every human feeling and emotion has a dual aspect. There are two opposites or two dimensions to all things. If there is sorrow, there will also be joy. This led me to believe, that some fear can be transformed into excitement by breathing fully into it.
Shallow breathing is part of the typical stress response. The symptoms of a phobia include difficulty breathing, pounding heart and chest pain. Practising deep breathing is a hack a lot of experts swear by to treat anxious thoughts and nervousness. Deep breathing slows down your heart rate, allows the body to take in more oxygen and ultimately signals the brain to wind down. It also lowers cortisol levels.
The good news is that you don’t need plenty of time or any special skills to practice pranayama. You can be on the train, on the plane or anywhere in the world to detach yourself from the surroundings and go inward. But let me start by explaining in more detail what is Pranayama.
"Pranayama" means "control of Breath". "Prana" is a Breath or vital energy in the body. It literally means “to breath forth”. On subtle levels, "Prana" represents the pranic energy responsible for life or life force, and "Ayama" means control. So, Pranayama is "Control of Breath".
Let’s start your journey by asking an easy question:
Why do you breathe? I think the answer is obvious. You do it because breath is life. When you stop breathing, you stop living.
So that’s all good. You more likely answered this question correctly, am I right? But here is the next one: How do you breathe? Or, even more precisely: How well do you breathe? Here are some tips: What is your posture? Is your breathing weak, shallow or irregular? Do you breathe into your diaphragm?
I suggest that you take a moment to connect to your breath and observe it – do it without any judgement! Just notice it and make a mental note.
This is a good moment to warn you! It sounds simple, but it is not. During your journey to the highest consciousness, you will experience obstacles.
Obstacles are defence mechanisms. They are part of ourselves that protect us from pushing forward. So, if you have an urge to drop the practice after a short time, please don’t!
The Sanskrit word for “obstacle” is "Antaraya", which means “to come between”. The obstacles come in many shapes. They can be mental or you can experience them physically. Nevertheless, your pranayama practice can always be modified to a simple reclining breathing awareness until you regulate yourself.
Yet, the bigger obstacle is the resistance to doing work and the desire for instant gratification. Even the breath requires your work. So, don’t get discouraged or impatient, pranayama seems to require an effort. When you don’t see the instant results, you might engage in self-doubt. It is important to understand that it is a journey. So, low your expectations… and BREATHE!