As the weather gets kinder and the days get longer, we feel naturally more energised. Yoga is one of our favourite ways to warm up and de-stress, but especially at this time of the year, we find it a beneficial way to ease ourselves into the new season. So we asked Michaela Olexova, yoga teacher and founder of The Baoli, to share her favourite routine to prep the body for Spring, which involves breathing in fresh air and restore the flow of nature in our lives. Over to Michaela...
When it comes to Spring, I feel like nature takes over. Not only do we see flowers, trees and animals awakening from the slow, cold and wet winter into the season of action filled, bright and warm days, but we also notice this transformation manifesting in our very own body and mind. We feel more connected to ourselves and become aware of the universal energy or prana flowing through our entire being, opening all of our cells. Our body and mind start unfolding like petals of a blossoming flower. Naturally, we feel more alive, positive and happy, thrilled with new possibilities... we are ready to face the whole world. What an amazing feeling! I agree. But what if you could reach out to this state of body and mind equilibrium any time you want, need or desire?
The good news is that it is not only possible but widely accessible to all of us. All it takes is a breathe of fresh air... According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika: “When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still.”
The way we breathe reflects the state of our mind. Therefore by simply controlling our breath, we can learn to control our mind, ultimately our thoughts and actions. Our breath forms an imaginary bridge between where we are now and where we want to be. And from my own practice, this is so true on many levels - physically, mentally and emotionally. The key lies in changing our breathing pattern and replacing the common shallow breath through the mouth - which takes lots of effort with very little benefits - with the abdominal breath through the nose. This practice not only brings more oxygen to the blood and brain, but most importantly it controls the flow of the life force energy through our body.
Now you can put it into the test. Pause for a moment and notice your breath and the movement in your body. Is your breathing slow, relaxed and even? Great! You seem to be content and calm. Is your breathing shallow, irregular or fast? Not so good. This may come from a state of anger, anxiety, tension or fear.
Either way, you will hugely benefit from the following breathing exercises if practised on a regular basis to maintain the control of your body & mind and staying in touch with your true nature...
Mindful Breathing Exercise (above text, first picture on the left)
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
- Place your right hand over your abdomen and your left hand over your chest.
- Bring your mind focus inwards and start observing your natural breath.
- Connect with your breath and begin controlling and regulating it.
- Inhale through your nose on the count of three, directing the inhale into your abdomen and then filling your chest. Imagine you are breathing into your right and left hand. Your abdomen and chest expands.
- Exhale through your nose on the count of six, directing the exhale from your abdomen and then your chest. See and feel your abdomen and chest relaxing and flattening.
- Notice the flow of energy rising upwards towards the crown of your head on your inhale and descending through your spine towards your seat as you exhale.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (middle and right picture)
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight.
- Bring your right hand in Vishnu Mudra position, folding your index and middle fingers towards the centre of your palm activating your lungs.
- Start the first round by inhaling through your left nostril on the count of four.
- Close your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril on the count of eight.
- Inhale through your right nostril on the count of four.
- Close your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril on the count of eight to complete the round.
- Repeat the whole round for about 5 minutes at the ratio 4-8-4-8 and remember to begin and complete each round with your left nostril.
- This breathing exercise not only purifies your nervous channels (nadis), it also balances your energies and centers you in the present moment.
Michaela Olexova is a yoga teacher, mentor, wellbeing ambassador and the founder of the yoga website www.thebaoli.com.