Re-Center and Re-focus: Simple Breathing Exercises for Teachers and Students

Re-Center and Re-focus: Simple Breathing Exercises for Teachers and Students
The Editorial Team August 12, 2020

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Editor’s note: We teamed up with our friends at VIVAYA, a one-of-a-kind live-streaming yoga and wellness platform, to bring new tips to help you meet the demands of the upcoming school year. Try these techniques out for yourself and share with your fellow teachers and students! And don’t forget to check out VIVAYA for yourself for a FREE 14-day trial.

Teachers, it’s no secret how stressful your day-to-day life can be during a normal school year, but this year has been full of unprecedented challenges. While planning your classes, teaching, grading, and supporting your students and families, you have had the added challenge of moving everything online in the midst of a global pandemic. Not a walk in the park!

A simple but overlooked stress-reliever

There is a very simple skill that can help you get through and overcome the inevitably stressful times. It is a skill that anyone can learn performed absolutely any time, and truly helps you get through stressful and hard situations with a little (or a lot!) more grace and ease. It’s such a basic thing that it’s easy to overlook, so bear with me…

I’m talking about breathing.

And though most of us breathe on autopilot as we focus our attention on more “important” things, our breathing actually lays the foundation for how we live our lives. And how we are breathing affects the quality of our life.

Are you breathing correctly? The science behind breathing

This is going to sound silly, but most people who aren’t actively practicing working with their breath are not breathing properly.

Most people hold tightness in the diaphragm and breathe shallowly, into their chests. This causes the body to stay in a chronically stressed state, with the sympathetic nervous system activated and cortisol running rampant through the body. In other words, you may not be breathing properly.

The results of regular breathing practice will absolutely stun you. When you take even a single true deep breath, you set off a chain reaction. You activate the parasympathetic nervous system. You massage and stimulate your inner organs. You oxygenate your blood. You give yourself space, physically and mentally. The yogis say that the mind follows the breath, and you will see for yourself that it’s true. When you remember to take a deep breath in the middle of a stressful situation, suddenly an easier, more graceful way forward becomes available to you. 

If you ever feel that you’re carrying too much stress in your body through your day, read on! Here are a couple techniques to get started with the rewarding practice of breathwork. These are the fundamental techniques that will help quickly.

3-part breath (Sanskrit name: Deergha Swasam)

Also called: deep-belly breathing, diaphragm breathing

The first thing you need to learn is how to take a single, proper deep breath. While it may sound like a no-brainer, you may be surprised to learn how much tightness you have in your diaphragm – so don’t skip this! You’ll be amazed at what this one simple practice opens up in your body and life. 

First, find yourself a comfortable place to lie down. It can be nice to put a pillow under your knees. If lying down isn’t accessible, find a comfortable place to sit. VIVAYA yoga and meditation teacher, Sarah Ireland, will guide you through the rest!

Alternate nostril breathing (Sanskrit name: Nadi Shodhana)

Now that you have the basic belly breath in your body awareness, let’s talk about a breath technique that has been used by yogis for thousands of years to help bring balance into the body and consciousness.

Teachers, you know more than anyone how hard it is to manage being pulled in different directions. You constantly have to balance the needs of your different students, their parents, your colleagues and administrators – and, more often than not the very last on the list, yourself. But the next time you are feeling off-balance and can take a 5-minute time-out, use this breath technique to find your center again.

Find a comfortable and quiet place to learn the technique, and then take it with you anywhere you go.

It really is this simple: When you breathe deeper, you think clearer. When you think clearer, you feel better and act better.

Remember, it doesn’t take much to experience the benefits of proper breathing, but consistency is key. Start by practicing for 5 minutes a day and just watch what happens over a week, a month, a year. The more you practice, the more available this skill will be for you for the moments when it really matters.

We hope this has been useful! If you’d like to go deeper into breathwork, yoga, and other practices, head over to VIVAYA, a live-streaming yoga and wellness platform, where you can practice with Sarah and many other exceptional teachers from across the US and worldwide. VIVAYA offers yoga, mediation, nutrition, healing arts like reiki, and more wellness practices.

This article was authored by Emma Arata, a wellness writer and kundalini yoga teacher at VIVAYA.

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Categorized as: Lifestyle

Tagged as: Teacher Wellbeing