Autumn,  stress

How to use the breath to calm the mind

Autumn and the metal element are associated with the organs of the lungs and large intestine, according to 5-Element Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This is an idea time to incorporate more pranayama into our yoga practice, both at home and wherever else we find ourselves with a few minutes to spare.

When I talk about pranayama, I use the definition of breath control or breathwork. To me it incorporates so much more than this, but for a beginner to the practice of yoga these definitions offer a place to start.

According to legendary yoga teacher, BKS Iyengar, pranayama means ‘the yogic art of breathing.’ This is taken from his text, ‘Light on Pranayama,’ which is considered to be a ‘definitive guide’ to the art of breathing. Pranayama is also outlined in the Yoga Sutras, taking pride of place as the fourth of the 8 Limbs of Yoga outlined by Patanjali. With this text dating back to the 2nd Century BCE it is clear to see that breathing has been an integral part of a well-rounded yoga practise since the beginning.

Pranayama is particularly good to include in your daily yoga routine at this time of year as we enter autumn and the metal element. This season is associated with the organs of the lungs and large intestines, with the meridian lines for this organ pair running along the back and front of the arms.

The first pranayama technique taught in many yoga classes is known as 3-part breath or Dirga Pranayama. It works by calming the mind, soothing the nervous system and drawing the attention into the present moment. Here’s a short video I made giving you the basics. Have a watch, then set a timer and give it a go yourself.

Instruction video on 3-part breath

This is a great way to start your yoga practice or your day. Take 5-minutes before you begin moving to check in with the breath and the body in the 3-part breath. It also works as a nice way to wind down at the end of the day, aiding a restful sleep.

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