There are many ways we can use our breathing to help us relax, especially during or at the end of a yoga class. One way of regulating the breath is to use a count. In my previous class blog, I described how we can use the fingers of the hand to count in multiples of 12, as a way of helping bring calm at moments on stress.

Another simple breathing exercise is diaphragmatic breathing, deep into the belly as singers are taught to do. You can bring calm by simply counting the inhale and the exhale as a means of slowing the rate of breathing.  If you are doing this at home, never force or strain the breath. Try a few rounds, and return to relaxed, normal breating. If you feel at all dizzy or lightheaded, just stop and return to your usual breath.

In last week’s class we used a simple pranayama (or breathing exercise) to a ratio of 4:2:6:2.  Breathing in to a count of 4, hold in for 2, breathe out to 6, hold out for 2.

You can try varying the count to find one that suits you, but in essence, the exhale is longer than the exhale. This can be done lying down, or sitting comfortably with the spine straight.

Breathing this way acts on the vagus nerve – which originates in the brainstem and extends all the way down to the tongue, vocal chords, heart, lungs, and other internal organs.  It switches off the sympathetic nervous system, the one that causes stress by activating your fight-or-flight response, and turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that brings a sense of calm.