Breathe: It’s time to find your zen

Sometimes you don’t realise the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.

To be in a state of well-being, one needs to find equal amounts of effort and release. It’s about putting in the effort and, at the same time, releasing and letting go of the outcome you expected. Thoughts will come up for you – some favourable, some not. Both are okay and are all part of your path to healthier habits, well-being and happiness.

The global pandemic and the usual stressors of life don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. It’s easy to think that just getting through the day will ease your worries – but there’s another solution: breathing.

According to Virgin Active, which offers online yoga sessions as well as a variety of yoga class options in-club, says a great way to release tension is through breath work or what yogis like to call “pranayama” (say that three times fast). Through pranayama (which literally translates to life force or control), we find ourselves completely committed to the present moment. This is where the balance of effort and ease resides.

Breath awareness

The good news is that we breathe without effort. In fact, we are unaware of it most of the time. However, in yoga, breathing becomes the main focus. One of the reasons for this is very simple: when you focus on the breath, it’s impossible to focus on anything else. So it becomes a meditative effort to turn your thoughts to your breathing.

Have you ever told a kid to count to 10 or have someone remind you to take three deep breaths? It isn’t just for the sake of it. Focusing on our breathing calms our nerves, relieves anxiety and energetically connects us to feelings of relaxation. Take a moment to imagine your next three weeks in lockdown. Does your breathing speed up, or get shallow?

Our stress, fear and anger all trigger irregularities in our breathing. It puts a strain on our bodies and can ultimately lead to medical issues we want to avoid. The good news is that learning breathing techniques can actually lead to stress resilience.

So, let’s try something new. Let’s breathe. No, really. You can try it anytime, anywhere. How about right now?

Breathing exercise

Find a comfortable place to sit, put your phone on silent, set a timer for 3 minutes and close your eyes. Simply breathe through your nose and observe your inhalation and exhalation. Is one longer? Don’t change it; just observe your breath. Pay attention. When your thoughts start to wonder, don’t yell at yourself, just notice and bring your thoughts back to the breath.

Even if that happens 20 times in 3 minutes, that’s okay. This is simply about finding a balance between effort and ease and bringing more awareness to the power of your breath.