If I ask you to take a deep breath, do you automatically suck air into your lungs, expanding your chest and moving your shoulders up in toward your ears? Did you know you’ve just inhaled a breath of stress?
The power of the breath is phenomenal, after all it's our life force that keeps us alive, and when we use it properly it promotes incredible inner peace, connection with the whole, and longevity. With just one properly performed deep breath, you have the opportunity to change your life. Conscious breathing can profoundly alter your decision-making process, particularly in times of stress.
But just how easy is it to breathe properly? And what is the correct method that you should adapt in not only these times of uncertainty but as an everyday practice? Where do we start? Well first, let's look simply at what is happening to our mind-body connection when our life is suddenly filled with turbulence. On the physical level, we are likely to see an elevation in our heart rate, or for a better word, we start to feel anxiety. Most of us react once we reach this state either in fight or flight mode, but it doesn't have to be this way.
Learning how to stimulate your vagus nerve, which acts as the mind-body connection and controls your relaxation response, will serve you wonderfully in life. The vagus nerve is the most important element of the parasympathetic nervous system; the one that calms you down by controlling your relaxation response. The vagus nerve connects your heart's emotions and gut instincts, and by activating the calming nervous pathways of the parasympathetic system you'll learn a valuable skill in managing your mind state and anxiety levels.
Some might know this technique from yoga classes, and it is most certainly a breath associated with many yoga and Taoist practices, as well as some forms of Taoist Qigong. You are able to stimulate your vagus nerve with Ujjayi, and it has certainly become my turbulence "go to" breath.
Ujjayi breath begins as you first fill the lower belly with breath through the nose which activates the first and second chakras, then move the breath up toward the lower rib cage activating the third and fourth chakras, and finally move the breath right up into the upper chest and throat.
Also known as the "ocean breath", both inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose and as your glottis in the throat passage is narrowed as the air passes in and out a deep "ghhhh" sound is expelled.
This is the major style of breathing used in Ashtanga Yoga, Susi, our founders choice of sacred yoga practice.
Here's the time and speed that I like to practice which will have profound results on calming your body and mind and strengthening your diaphragm: