You have a built-in stress reliever, always free and always available: your breath. Fortunately most of the time you don’t need to think about breathing. With no conscious effort, your body keeps the oxygen, carbon dioxide, and pH levels of your blood in balance by varying your breathing rate. However, you have the power to consciously control your breath when you want to, and learning to do so can be an incredible tool for health and wellbeing.
For thousands of years, people have learned to control breathing for health and spiritual reasons. In the Indian yogic tradition, breath control is called pranayama, and it’s practiced to facilitate meditation, enhance physical yoga practices, and change mood. Scientific research affirms pranayama can help people feel better. The practice of Sudarshan Kriya yoga, a series of breathing exercises, has been shown to reduce anxiety, relieve insomnia, and dramatically reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans and disaster survivors. Keep reading to learn why breathing can be so powerful, and discover how to harness the power of your breath to feel calmer and more alert.