"Sometimes you don't realise the weight of something you've been carrying until you feel the weight of its release."
To be in a state of well-being, one needs to find equal amounts of effort and release. It's about putting in the effort and, at the same time, releasing and letting go of the outcome you expected. Thoughts will come up for you – some favourable, some not. Both are okay and are all part of your path to healthier habits, well-being and happiness.
A great way to release is through breath work or what yogis like to call "pranayama" (say that three times fast). Through pranayama (which literally translates to life force or control), we find ourselves completely committed to the present moment. This is where the balance of effort and ease resides.
The good news is that we breathe without effort and are, in fact, unaware of it most of the time. But in yoga, breath becomes the main focus. One of the reasons for this is very simple: when you focus on the breath, it's impossible to focus on anything else. Your thoughts must focus on the breath. So there actually becomes a meditative effort to turn your thoughts to your breath.
Have you ever told a kid to count to 10 or have someone remind you to take three deep breaths? This isn't just for the sake of it. Focusing on our breath calms our nerves, relieves anxiety and energetically connects us to feelings of relaxation. Take a moment to imagine your next three weeks in lockdown. Does your breath speed up, or get shallow? Our stress, fear and anger all trigger irregularities in the breath. It puts a strain on our bodies and can ultimately lead to medical issues we want to avoid. The good news is that learning breathing techniques can actually lead to stress resilience!
So, let's try something new. Let's breathe. No, really. You can try it anytime, anywhere. How about right now!
Find a comfortable place to sit, put your phone on silent, set a timer for 3 minutes and close your eyes. Simply breathe through your nose and observe your inhalation and exhalation. Is one longer? Don't change it; just observe your breath. Pay attention. When your thoughts start to wonder, don't yell at yourself, just notice and bring your thoughts back to the breath. Even if that happens 20 times in 3 minutes, that's OK. This is simply about finding a balance between effort and ease and bringing more awareness to the power of your gorgeous breath.
Enjoyed the breathing exercise and ready for more?
Virgin Active offers online yoga sessions as well as a variety of yoga class options in-club. Membership is all-inclusive, giving you access to unlimited group exercise classes such as yoga and Pilates. First time? That's perfectly fine. If you opt for online, you're in the comfort of your own space learning something new, and who knows, you might really enjoy finding your Zen. In the health club? Qualified instructors are on hand to guide you.