Yoga, for most people, is the perfect opportunity to de-stress and really focus on the self, that is why many of us have made it part of our daily routines. Whether you are a regular on the yoga mat or prefer to be more spontaneous with your ‘me’ time, breathing exercises are a vital part of a good relaxation session. Even if you are flying solo or inviting the whole pack together, these are a great way to calm yourself with breathing exercises.
Breathing has been linked to de-stressing the mind and body for decades as it's an easy and quick way to practice connecting with your body. Slowing the heart rate down directly correlates to feelings of relaxation as it resembles the body's calm state, making it the perfect companion for your yoga flow.
Some of us yogis out there will recognise this particular practice as Pranayama, which refers to the breath control you use during breathing exercises. If this is something you are not already utilising in your routine then now is a great time to try it out. With our handy dandy breathing exercise for flow state, you'll be a pro in no time.
What is The Flow State?
The concept of a flow state is not actually primarily linked toward yoga, in fact, its origin comes from the action of being fully immersed in something you are doing. Coined by psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura, flow state is, according to Csikszentmihalyi “focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity.” Entering this flow state regularly has been proven to make us much happier humans. Going hand in hand or rather paw in paw, with yoga, lets us access this meditative state of mind as it absorbs the focus effectively acting as a sponge ready to be saturated with positive and relaxed energy.
Flow state is often found within the practice of yoga; it has become a popular way of achieving that all-important zen. Yoga teaches us that we can put our mind and body in tune with one another and flow state enables us to do just that! So here are some breathing techniques/exercises to train your breath and boost your session.
Starting off with a fun and energizing activity that invites us to let everything go in a sudden release of breath. We recommend beginning with this exercise as it's ideal for those younger cubs in your pack as well as those of us needing to exhale a stressful week.
Lion’s Breath starts with inhaling deeply through your nose, leaning your head back and opening your mouth wide and exhaling loudly while sticking your tongue out. Sounds a little strange but we can promise it's a lot of fun and a great introduction to how to train your breath for yoga.
Bellows Breath is one of the more energetic breathing exercises that is perfect for an early morning session. Ready to invigorate you and give you that boost of energy, this exercise works by raising your hands up with your fingers out wide. Inhale through your mouth and with every exhale, drop your elbows into your side body and make a “HA” sound from deep within. Great for giggles and getting rid of that awkward first attempt at breathing for the flow state.
An excellent way to calm the mind and focus up to find your flow state, Ujjayi breath is widely used to do exactly that. Working both on and off the mat it begins with inhaling and exhaling through your nose, taking the breath all the way through the back of your throat. Try doing each for an equal amount of time and digging deeper too for a boosted effect.
A nice and simple breathing technique that is guaranteed to leave you feeling focused and steady, perfect for achieving your own flow state. Great for stress, anxiety and overall sensory overload, three-part breathing works by placing a hand on your upper chest and another on your navel. Seated firmly in the middle of your mat, inhale slowly and exhale slowly to puff out your stomach in a steady manner.
All these exercises are some great ways to find some clarity and calm as the year draws to a close. Often when we reflect on the year gone it can leave us feeling overwhelmed, achieving a flow state can calm the mind, body and soul. With yoga being widely accepted as one of the most favourable ways to do so, give yourself a break this winter and try something new with these breathing techniques!