'Breathe in through one nostril and out of the other' is probably the most confusing instruction we have ever heard during a yoga class -so why do yoga instructors focus so much on breathing?
Breathing is the most basic function of the body; we will do it naturally so why do we need to focus on it during a yoga class?
The Yoga way - One of the foundations of yoga is the belief that we all have a life force or energy within us called Prana. When practising yoga using the correct breathing techniques and controls called Pranayama helps to boost this life energy within us.
Scientifically the way we breathe does have a direct link to how our bodies respond and move. Think of it like this - what happens to your body when you get a fright and breathe in suddenly - your body lifts, tightens and tenses up. Now think about what happens to your body when you sigh at the end of a long day - your body softens and relaxes. The way we breathe can affect how our body moves and how it relaxes and this is the real key in a yoga class.
If you're doing some yoga poses that are really challenging you may feel like holding your breath becauseyou are uncomfortable but if you can focus on your breath, breathe deeply and exhale slowly your body will relax a little and the pose will become a bit easier. The same is true of the opposite - if you trying to move into a strong pose or lift your body breathing in will help your body and core muscles tense up and support your weight.
Breathing at the end of a yoga class can promote relaxation. Being told to meditate or clear your mind of all thoughts is a lot harder than it seems, it's hard to relax and think of nothing, for many people as soon as they hear this their minds start to work over time. This is where focusing on the breath can help with relaxation, instead of thinking of nothing you focus all your attention on one basic function - breathing.
The best advice for beginners is not to get too stressed. Coordinating breathing with movements will come with regular practise and if you forget - your body will remember to breathe for you anyway.