I took the breath as my theme for my first online class during this extraordinary time of lock down Britain. It underpins all that I do in yoga, and now it never has seemed so important.

There’s discussion in yoga circles, and elsewhere, of how we can learn to use the breath to help us at a time when a virus is circulating that attacks our respiratory systems. It certainly won’t do any harm to do some simple yoga pranayama, including lying face down and breathing deeply into the back of the body.

As well as strengthening our breath through working on the muscles around the lungs, we can use it to help with stress and anxiety. Yoga teachers and therapists around the world are rallying round and offering all kinds of meditations and relaxations free of charge through the internet.

When we are stressed or worried, our breath often becomes faster and shallower, which in turn feeds into feelings of anxiety and alarm. Deeper yogic breathing can reverse this, and help us unwind and relax. I like to focus on breathing at the beginning of class to help and prepare both the body and mind for practice.

A good way to start is to lie in the ‘constructive rest’ position, with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Or sitting comfortably upright on an office or dining room chair. By closing the eyes, and following the rise and fall of the belly under the hands, we bring our awareness to the flow of breath through the nose. We can introduce a count in and out, to focus the mind, and gently extend the exhale.

Below is a very simple yoga practice to follow on with.