You know that when you have just done a yoga class you feel relaxed but why is this and what is going on in the body? Normally we would take about 10 – 12 breaths per minute, during yoga you will be asked to deepen your inhale and extend your exhale, so by doing this your breathing slows down. This awakens the relaxation response in the brain, in the vagus nerve and this sends messages to the body to relax.
If you prefer not to concentrate on your breath an alternative is to think link your breathing with slow, mindful movement. You could start by sitting down or lying down and raising your arms as you breath in and gently lowering them as you breath out. You could extend this inbreath and outbreath with other yoga moves that appeal to you. Doing 5 breaths in this gentle and relaxed way may help if you prefer not to concentrate solely on your breathing.
Another option is to count to 3 as you breath in and 4 as you breath out, then extend this to 4 as you breath in and 5 as you breath out. Maybe do 5 breaths in all then check the sensations in your body, do you feel more calm? You don’t have to do the breathwork for very long, 5 breaths is fine to start with, see if your body wants to extend this week by week.
One amazing piece of research has shown that slow yoga can help your body move away from unhelpful things, such as eating that extra biscuit, and moving towards life affirming ways, such as making an apple more appealing. So the more you do yoga the more you will want to do yoga, you can feel what it is bringing to your life in lots of different ways, it goes far beyond the poses on your mat at class every week!