A key to your yoga practice is embracing the healing benefits. While it is important to strengthen, lengthen, and build endurance in your muscles, it is equally important to give them time to recover while getting in touch with your breath.
A great example of how yoga can be healing comes in the form of military veterans. Consider a recent article for CNN titled “Healing veterans’ trauma through yoga.” Dana Santas of CNN writes, “People who suffer from PTSD often experience difficulty modulating their ‘fight-or-flight’ response. When in danger, it’s natural to feel anxious and trigger your sympathetic nervous system, raising your heart rate and blood pressure while increasing your respiration and stress hormone production. However, trauma survivors are often stuck chronically in this mode, or they switch into it at inappropriate times. Thankfully, just a couple minutes of diaphragmatic breathing can actually reverse our fight-or-flight reaction and tap the opposite, calming parasympathetic nervous system. Doing so elicits our ‘relaxation response,’ a term coined by Harvard Medical School Dr. Herbert Benson to describe lowered heart rate and blood pressure, stifled stress hormone production and slower, deeper respiration. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hip-distance apart, 6 to 8 inches from your bottom. Put a folded blanket under your head and neck for comfort. Place your hands on your low ribs to feel the expansion of your ribcage out on your inhalations and contraction back and down on your exhalations. Emphasize your exhalations like long, drawn-out sighs of relief. Pause briefly after completely emptying your lungs. Try to establish a nostril breathing pattern as follows: five-count inhalation, seven-count exhalation and two-count pause. Repeat this pattern for 10 to 20 breaths.”
Breathing is essential to all of your yoga practice. No matter how long or short, or if you’re doing yoga for strength or pain relief, always make time to breathe.