Breathing is not just for your workout

“Breathe rhythmically”, “Focus on your breathing”, “Your heart is pounding, but your breathing is calm”

…all instructions given to me in a day of catching up on my exercise for the week. 90 minutes of hot yoga and 45 minutes of spin… different approaches to fitness, but with one key feature in common…to maximise the benefit of my effort, I need to breathe well.

How we breathe is how we feel…how many of us will find our nerves escalating as we take huge breaths in and out trying to calm the rising panic? How many of us arrive at a place of rest or somewhere beautiful and sigh with appreciation and relief? How many of us hold our breath impatiently waiting for someone to finish talking in a meeting so we can get our point across?

The key to managing our state in all situations can be found in any good workout – breathe rhythmically, evenly in and out. Your heart may be pounding, but your breathing is calm, even, flowing in and out rhythmically, repetitively.

In yoga, breath is named ‘Prana’ or life force…not something to take for granted, ignore, and perhaps worse, do badly. Breath is energy, breath is rest, breath is power for the voice. How we breathe affects those around us – from ‘catching’ a yawn to feeling the nerves of an anxious presenter or quickly finding anger in an argument, all may be influenced by the breathing pattern of the other person or people.

We can all benefit from taking the time every day – even for a moment – to notice how we’re breathing and return to that smooth, rhythmic flow that allows us to be at our best, and in doing so, help others to feel the same. Don’t just save it for your workout!