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{Note from Jessica: Today’s post is shared by my good friend, Lauren, author of Lauren Fowler. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and yoga teacher who promotes a non-diet approach to nutrition and health. She wants everyone to connect to their bodies intuitive wisdom rather than following diets. She encourages the tools of intuitive eating and health at every size. Stop by LaurenFlower.co to read more about nutrition, intuitive eating, heart-based health, and yoga.}

A few weeks ago, I had my first yoga therapy session and was amazed about the endless knowledge our body holds. As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I’ve spent years connecting to my body, exploring it through movement and breath, and discovering body wisdom.

Yet, this yoga therapy session was different in a way that helped me really connect with the deep power of my breath and how I can use it in my life to feel centered and energized.

The simple recommendation of “take 5 deep breaths” is given out when you may be feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or just need to slow down, but I know many people don’t take it seriously. I know I’ve heard and read that, but I wanted a better solution than to “breathe.”

For years, I thought there must be a better answer to “just breathe,” because after all, my body was breathing already.

Yet, the truth is often the best tools are the most simple.

The breath is our best tool to connect, slow down, and feel centered.

It’s always with us, anyone can use it, and it’s totally free.

Bringing awareness to the breath to deepen it may help with:

  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Lower or stabilize blood pressure
  • Increased energy levels
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Decreased feelings of stress or overwhelm

Deep breathing, or pranayama, is used in yoga classes as a way to connect the mind and body.

By controlling your breath, you can deepen it and stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system to help calm down. We all live in a state of stress, so using your breath can bring a sense of calm and relaxation into your life.

For me, I find pranayama tools helps me feel grounded, connected and aware of my body, calm and present. While I do practice breathwork in yoga class, more importantly, I can return to my breath throughout the day to be present when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed.

Here are a few different pranayama exercises you can try to connect mind and body.

3 Breath Tools

3-Part Breath

Find a comfortable seat, or lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.

Start to breathe into your chest, ribs, and belly. Feel your chest rise, ribs expand out, and belly rise up. Fill up your body with breath to use your diaphragm.

On the exhale, draw your belly in, ribs move toward each other, and chest falls down. Actively, contract your belly, exhaling completely.

You can bring one hand to your belly and one hand over your heart to feel your breath in your body.

Breathe Deep: 3 Ways to Use your Breath to Reduce Anxiety

Continue with full, complete breaths for 10-20 breaths.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

This is your go-to tool for anxiety! If you’re feeling ungrounded, this breath will get you centered in no time.

Bring your right hand towards your nose. Close off your right nostril with your right thumb, and inhale completely through your left nostril. Release the right nostril, and close off your left nostril with your ring and pinky finger. Exhale out your right nostril. Inhale through your right nostril, close it off and exhale out your left nostril.

Keep alternating breath for 3-5 minutes keeping your mind focused on your breath. When you finish, take a few deep breaths through both your nostrils.

Breath Guided Movement

Learn how to guide your movement with breath. When you can do this, a sense of ease enters the body because you’re listening to your breath and staying connected to mind and body.

Practice this in a cat-cow yoga sequence.

Start on hands and knees.

Start your inhale, then drop your belly, lift your hips, and look forward to cow pose. Start your exhale, then round your upper back, squeeze in, and look towards your belly button.

Start your breath before the movement, and follow the movement for the whole inhale and exhale.

Try out using your breath with these practices in the morning or throughout the day. When you practice, simply start with one minute at a time to build it into a consistent habit. Notice the effects of your practice and how you feel physically, mentally, or emotionally before and after.

Keep these as self-care tools for yourself to return to during the day when you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or ungrounded. When you can remind yourself that the best choice is to take one minute to breathe, it can change the course of your day.

Breathe deep, my friends!

If you’re interested in more yoga, pranayama, or self-care tools, join me over on Instagram for practice ideas, insights, and more!

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