Healthy Habits | "Breath of Fresh Air"

By Kimmi Norvell

The quickest way to bring your mind and body in balance is with the breath. When you're focusing on the breath, the conscious brain doesn’t have much capability for other thought. Breathing does the obvious, opens up the lungs and sends more oxygen throughout the entire body. It has been said that we only use 10% of the lungs at resting. Although this is not completely true, most people breathe shallow and short. Mindful breathing brings the body into balance. If you're up or down, breathing brings your back to center. Before we go any further, STOP, close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths.
Feel better? I know what your answer is because I do.

A lot of anxiety starts as a physical response in the lungs. When the lungs and muscles surrounding them constrict, it sends a message to the brain. The brain then releases neurochemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. When this happens and we do not have a battle to fight or an emergency situation to run from, our body has the symptoms of anxiety. This can all be controlled with the breath. It may not work the first time but according to Thomas Richards, PhD., the body and brain need cognitive therapy and “without repetition, neural pathways and associations cannot change. To have a permanent solution for social anxiety, our neural pathways and associations MUST change” ( As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect and if we don’t practice stress release, then guess what? Yep, we’ll have symptoms of stress. Below you’ll find a couple of breaths we practice in yoga that can help guide you into balance.

Ujjayi Breath

This is the first breath you’ll typically learn in a yoga class. I like to call it the Darth Vader or if you’re more of a Spaceballs fan, Dark Helmet, breath. Keep reading and you’ll see why. Ujjayi breathing occurs in and out of the nostrils. Focus the air to move off the back of the throat, making a deep almost growling type sound (hence Darth Vader). Breathe slow and steady, like you’re sucking the air through a straw. When you breathe in, expand the belly and pull the belly toward the spine as you expel air from the lungs. Your inhale and exhale should be at the same pace so count to ensure they are. Here is a quick, six minute video that explains it beautifully.

Focus Breath

Imagine a hunting dog sniffing out the scent of its prey or your pup sniffing the air when you drop something delicious in a skillet. This is a breath that is used to bring focus and alertness to the mind. Do not use this breath when you are feeling anxiety or stress, as it could heighten the anxious responses in the body. The focus breath is short, quick sniffs from the nose. The belly moves in and out with the breath. I use it when I’m driving and need to wake up, followed by 10 Ujjayi breaths for more balance. I also use it when I’m sitting down to a project, like writing this article for instance. I start and end with an Ujjayi breath with about 15-20 seconds of focus breath in between.

The important thing is to JUST breath. When someone upsets you, breath. When something excites you, breath. When you need a break but can't take one, breath. For those of you that thought you'd never do yoga, you just did. Breathing is one of the main components of yoga.
Kimmi Norvell is the owner of Coastal Bend Health Foods in Rockport, Texas.

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