The healing power of the breath: Simple techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, enhance concentration, and balance your emotions
By Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg (Shambala, 2012)
When I was on holidays in the Indian Himalayas recently, I was on a 15-day tour that included yoga and chanting (kirtan) every day. We were fed yummy vegetarian food, driven around the mountains, taken to temples and guided to wonderful spots to view Mother Nature at her best. We had a busy schedule and we never really knew what was next, so the motto “go with the flow” was really the easiest way to handle the situation.
After a month of being in this highly spiritual land, surrounded by surreal landscapes of mountains and desert, I came home feeling different. It was a number of weeks before I realised things had changed in me:
1) I didn’t care so much about what others thought of me
2) I didn’t think so much about the future
I had gone to India with a personal intention to find “freedom” and I received it. Indeed, I found two kinds of freedom; a freedom from living to other people’s expectations; a freedom from the prison of worrying about the future. My qigong teacher Li Ying always used to say: “your energy doesn’t know the past or the future, it only knows now.”
I now have this inkling that whatever happens is right, and there’s no need to get worked up about things. I hope this lasts! Living this way is so much easier.
Now to the book review, in the past week I had a few anxious moments that temporarily shattered my above-mentioned “freedom”. I went to my bookshelf and pulled out The healing power of the breath – I received this book a couple of years ago when I was writing for a yoga magazine. Now was the perfect time to read it – and listen to the included CD, which offers guided breathing practices.
I often explain to my yoga students that the breath can change the body and mind: a deep and slow breath leads to a relaxed body, which leads to a relaxed mind; a short and quick breath leads to a tense body and busy mind (which comes first is the question!).
This book provides breathing techniques and practices for the beginner, gradually building your knowledge and ability to more advanced practices. The CD guides the practices in a clear and precise manner. This is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to improve their own mental health or get through difficult times with some dedicated self-love.
Anxiety is not something to be ashamed about. One in six young Australians have anxiety – it’s much more common than depression. Rather than turn to drugs and alcohol or food to self-medicate, why not try using your own natural gifts – the lungs?
Molly Furzer has been practising yoga since 1999 and teaching since 2007. She teaches gentle yoga to adults, Kids & Family Yoga, and Laughter Wellness.