Pranayama – A Tool to Counter Stress

Our Achieve Juniors learn breath exercises called ‘Pranayama’ during Yoga Practice on our active stretch days. In these practices we learn techniques to control the breath in specific ways that produce direct changes in our state. The Alternate Nostril Breathing technique is known to create a state of balance, calmness, and has a relaxing affect. I’d recommend you try it as a daily meditation practice, before golf practice, before playing a game or tournament, or any time you feel stressed.
Stressful thoughts alone can trigger our sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, or freeze response), flooding the body with energy to respond to perceived danger. When this happens, breathing speeds up and becomes shallow, causing you to breathe from the chest instead of the lower lungs. This is often why people feel shortness of breath as a symptom of anxiety or frustration. There’s more to this sympathetic stress response, as it sends blood and oxygen into extremities filled with hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, while hindering function of systems like digestion and immunity.
Deep breathing can reverse these symptoms instantly and bring a sense of balance and calm to the mind and body. Practices from Pranayama with deep breathing stimulate the main nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve, which slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and reverses the stress response in your body. Regular practice of Pranayama will nurture a high level of bodily health and mental clarity, which is crucial on the path of self-awareness and state we’d like to bring to our golf game.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is a great way to balance impurities in the body and boost the immune system. It helps support cleansing and balancing of breath and body through the nostrils, by balancing the left and right energy channels (nadis). Often used to support the body during seasonal changes or times of detox, it’s a great time to start practicing right now as we transition into spring!
Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique Instruction

  1. Take a comfortable seat on the floor or sit in a chair
  2. We will be using the thumb and ring fingers on our right hand.

> Index and middle fingers can curl in or stay placed on space between the brow

  1. Hold right thumb over your right nostril to plug it closed. Inhale slowly through left nostril to fill lungs.
  2. Plug left nostril with ring finger and hold breath.
  3. Release thumb. Exhale through right nostril. Inhale through right nostril.
  4. Plug thumb and hold breath.
  5. Release ring finger. Exhale through left nostril. Inhale through left nostril.
  6. Repeat instructing steps 4-7 for length of practice desired.

* 5-15 minutes recommended.
*OPTIONAL: to add a count of 1-2-3-4 for each breath to make inhales, exhales, and hold even in length.

  1. The next time you exhale out of your right nostril let your hands rest down and breath naturally.

Contraindications: If you have serious heart issues and high blood pressure it would be advised that you practice this under direct supervision of a trained and experienced instructor.

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