The number of people practicing yoga has risen. In 1994, there were around 6 million, now it’s 200 million and growing. Research shows yoga is beneficial for a number of health issues, including anxiety, mild depression and stress. A growing number of businesses are offering yoga in the workplace and their investment is wise because 50% of all corporate healthcare costs are known to be lifestyle related and consequently, preventable.
Companies are finding investing in prevention of illness and good health has a great return on their healthcare investment.
Business executives and leaders are faced with the problem of being overpowered by stress and all the health related issues it brings. Stress related illnesses mean reduced revenue and lost working hours. It takes its toll on the body’s immune system causing anything from frequent colds to heart attacks and strokes. Stress can produce aggression in the workplace and has been associated with psychological distress, resulting in decreased productivity, commitment and loyalty.
Yoga and its associated practices, particularly pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) are an excellent antidote to the executive lifestyle, helping to increase happiness, gain focus and lower blood pressure, amongst many other benefits. Let’s take a look at how yoga breathing can help.
Breathing effect #1 — Increased Productivity
· Increased lung volume
· Increased oxygen exchange in the body
· Enhanced blood flow
Regular practice enhances lung function and improves the overall energy available to the body, assisting greater productivity.
Breathing effect #2 — Enhanced business performance
· Stimulates brain growth
· Increases the size of grey matter in the brain
· Increases cognitive function and brain plasticity
Grey matter decreases as we age, taking many faculties with it. Seeing, hearing, memory, decision making and self-control. With yoga breathing, you can actually increase the size of the grey matter and yes, your brain can actually grow new networks of nerves over time, improving your performance.
Breathing effect #3 — Relieves stress
· Reduces negative emotions, like anger and mild depression
· Lowers blood pressure by relaxing the body and soothing the nerves
· Reduces the heart rate and wear and tear on the heart
The mind, body and breath are interconnected. Our breath is influenced by our thoughts and our thoughts are influenced by our breath. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness is valuable in restoring balance in the mind and body through the nervous system, thereby reducing stress.
Breathing effect #4 — Setting intentions to achieve goals
· Teaches you to live in the moment and release past thoughts and actions
· Helps you to focus on internal strength for long term change instead of looking outside for short term fixes.
· Enables you to plant intentions into the unconscious mind whilst the mind is at rest
Mind power comes from the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind only thinks in the present. Yoga breathing keeps you in the present and enables you to access the power of your mind. When you programme your unconscious mind in the present, you will reach your goals much faster.
Breathing effect #5 — Better health
· Decreases breathing rate
· Improves the functioning of major organs
· Enhances the immune system
The way you breathe and the rate at which you breathe, affects your longevity. For example. A shrew breathes 800 times a minute and lives for 2 years. A tortoise breathes at a rate of 4 to 5 times a minute and lives for up to 200 years. Research shows a human can learn to breathe 4 to 5 times a minute, increase their longevity and improve their overall health.
Breathing effect #6 — Better communication
· Creates calmness, so when you are in situations which would normally bring about irritability or anger, it encourages the ability to be clear in thought and effective in communication.
· Enables positive thinking habits which enhance the working environment
· Teaches discipline and concentration, thereby increasing productivity
When our mind becomes calm and focused, we begin to have respect and compassion for others as well as ourselves. We can acknowledge how valuable other people are in our business environment as well as elsewhere.
Breathing effect #7 — Enhanced confidence and self-esteem
· Alters your perception by bringing your mind away from external worries and towards your inner strength.
· Teaches you to clear your mind of negativity, until you can ‘just be’ with yourself.
· A healthy strong mind builds your self-belief and you feel able to face situations with confidence.
When the breath is calm the mind follows suit. The calmer the mind the stronger it becomes. From a strong mind, self -confidence and self-worth grows.
Breathing effect #8 — Community behaviour/team spirit
· Helps you to foster a greater sense of appreciation of each experience in life, for what it is.
· Leads you to experience a deeper sense of gratitude for life
· Leads to a sense of fulfilment and a greater sense of connectedness to others and the world.
We all breathe, we share the same air and we are all connected via our breath. It is the breath more than anything, which demonstrates our interconnectedness and our unity. Breath is a part of us and of the outside world. When we learn the sacredness of breath and not take it for granted, we also learn the sacredness of the universe. We are one and the same.
Breathing effect #9 — Clarity and focus
· Helps the mind to stop its continual whirring and become calm
· Improves your attention span
· Assists the brain to become more efficient at processing information.
Everyone needs clarity and focus to achieve the next step towards their intentions and goals. There are often situations where your mind is so full of “things to do,” you don’t know where to start or what to do to reach your goal. If you struggle to concentrate and become easily distracted, yogic breathing can assist you to strengthen your mind and focus on a single task.
Breathing effect #10 — Mindfulness
· It can help us to maintain a moment by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. This keeps us in the present.
· Assist us to find acceptance and meaning. We learn to pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them or feeling guilty
· We can learn to allow our thoughts to tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future, thereby, reducing our stress.
Mindfulness and quiet reflection allow us time to receive new insights. We start to use our attention wisely, allowing us to become more productive on every level
In an age where we spend most of our time sitting, either at work, commuting, or even relaxing, our breath becomes shallow. When our posture is poor, it is harder to breathe. We experience muscular tightness, body imbalances, and chronic back problems, which in turn compromises our breath. However, we can reverse this, we can stop this downward spiral and turn it around, creating not only better health but more openness in our bodies and minds. It’s time to breathe deeply and experience all the energy and ease which comes with that. We all understand breath is essential to life but can you now see how the mind, the body and the breath are intrinsically linked? One does not exist without the other. Learning to breathe properly, consciously and with awareness, is an incredibly powerful tool.
Here is a mindful breathing exercise to help you start your practice and reduce your stress.
Originally published at medium.com