Pranayama: The benefits of taking ten deep breaths.

Scientific research is demonstrating that changing your breathing helps you to control your moods.

Remember that time when you were a small child and something made you angry? What did your mother say: “Take ten deep breaths.” And now there is a growing body of scientific research to show that your mum may have been right.

Yoga is a breathing practice. The magic is all in the breathing. For thousands of years yogis in India taught that by changing the way that you breathe you could change your physical and mental processes and experience the world in an enhanced way.

Yoga and meditation teachers have advised people to quiet their minds by focusing on breathing, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. A recent study from Northwestern University [http://neurosciencenews.com/memory-fear-breathing-5699/] suggests that breathing does indeed affect brain activity, and that people are better able to remember objects and recognize fear when inhaling through their noses. 

The study was led by Christina Zelano, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She says that one of the study’s major findings is that nasal inhaling causes a “dramatic difference” in areas of the brain related to emotional processing (the amygdala) and memory (the hippocampus).

This is only one of many recent studies that are demonstrating that healthy breathing patterns contribute to general well being. Across the Western world there is a huge increase in people suffering from respiratory problems such as asthma and sleep apnea (holding the breath whilst sleeping). Sedentary lifestyles where we sit all day in front of a computer also compound the problem.

Pranayama, the Indian name for yoga breathing exercises, is a skill that is easily learned but offers a lifetime of possibilities.

A regular pranayama practice allows us to become more aware of our habitual breathing patterns and to modify them if necessary to a new, healthier pattern.

Pranayama also allows you to develop and expand your ability to breathe, and this can result in better brain function, increased athletic performance and also help promote feelings of general well being. Form many people learning pranayama is the key step to quickly and effortlessly developing their yoga practice.

Unfortunately very few people teach pranayama in yoga classes despite the fact that almost all of the traditional yoga texts tell us that pranayama is an essential part of any yoga practice.

I am one of the very few yoga teachers in London who specialize in teaching pranayama privately. One private class is all you need to unlock some amazing new dimensions to your yoga practice and your life.

Want to find out more? Call me now on 07952 153907 or send me a message.

Yoga and lower back pain

Lower back pain is one of the most common reasons for absenteeism at work.

It costs the NHS millions of pounds every year providing treatment and costs the economy billions in lost productivity. Evidence from a newly published randomized trial, featured in the highly respected Annals of Internal Medicine, reports that Yoga works as well as physical therapy for relieving back pain.

The study included 320 people ages 18 to 64 with moderate and persistent low back pain. Researchers assigned them to either 12 weekly sessions with a yoga instructor, 15 sessions of physical therapy over 12 weeks, or education with a book and periodic newsletters about back pain therapy. They measured pain intensity and disability with well-validated questionnaires.

In both the yoga and physical therapy groups, approximately half the participants achieved reduced pain and disability, and roughly 50% reduced their drug use. Those in the education group did not do as well: about a fifth showed improved physical function, 14% found pain relief, and 25% reduced their use of pain medication.

The most encouraging finding is that people apparently liked yoga better than the physical therapy. Participants in the yoga group had the fewest drop outs.

“I’d tell my friends to use yoga for back pain,” said the senior author, Janice Weinberg, a professor of biostatistics at the Boston University School of Public Health. “It is cost effective, it can be done at home or in group settings where there is social support, and it is also thought to have mental health benefits.”

These findings support the work of my friend Alison Trewhela. In 2001 Alison, in collaboration with the University of York conducted a ground-breaking study which demonstrated that yoga was as successful as physiotherapy in healing people with lower back pain. I trained with Alison to deliver the Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs course that she developed for this study.

Learn more:

I’m teaching a workshop on Sunday 17th September at Clarity Yoga in St Albans. You can find out more information at www.clarity.yoga

The workshop will start with simple backbends and progress through a range of techniques that will help you learn how to develop the correct strength and the appropriate alignment to really enjoy back bending.

Come along and find out how you can protect yourself from lower back pain and discover the tools you need to keep your spine healthy.

Do you have any back pain issues or questions? Send me a message or contact me to find out more.