Before I started practicing yoga, I used to have really bad anxiety. It would just come out of nowhere, usually at the worst possible time, and then sometimes lead to panic attacks.
I would still continue to get my random spurts of anxiety here and there, even after I had invited yoga into my life, but found it was happening a little bit less. I never really paid attention to how or why it became a less frequent problem, until a few years later.
Looking at it now it all seems to make sense; how my yoga teacher at the time taught different breathing techniques during class and this was helping me without me even realizing it. It was teaching me to shift my mind out of its usual mode of thinking and planning and worrying for the hour and fifteen minutes duration of the class, and really keeping my mind in the present moment of being.
As I was still fairly new to yoga at the time, I had not yet gotten into the habit of keeping my mind from wandering into thoughts about my life issues during asana. However, when my teacher walked us through meditation and pranayama where the focus was just on the breathing, this somehow magically got my mind to stay still. Perhaps it’s because breathing is something we naturally do anyways to keep us alive, or maybe it’s because it was a specific thing that I could feel my body doing, so I could stay focused on it. I would always feel like a million bucks after a class with this focus.
When I was introduced to my all time favorite, Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing), this was a game changer for me. When we practice this pranayama, the brain registers a message, via the nervous system, that shifts us from stress to relaxation. The calmness and enhanced focus that comes out of its practice is something amazing and something I now try to teach in almost every one of my classes.
I practice this pranayama whenever I feel anxiety creeping up on me, and it has a magical way of stopping anxiety in its tracks. I have practiced Nadi Shodhana before job interviews, presentations; before anything that seemed to strike up a bit of anxiety for me, and I’ve found that I am able to tackle and take on any task with a calm and clear mind.
How has Pranayama had an affect on your life?
Contributed by guest author Alessandra Turone, Yoga Teacher Training Alum