Diaphragmatic breathing

Ever Been Pissed Off After Yoga? This Could Be Why

A while back, Kylie from Life Blueprint 365 was telling me that the yoga classes she'd been going to were making her angry.

'Why?', I asked.

'It's the power flow,' she replied, 'I hate moving that fast. It makes me angry.'

Which didn't fully explain the why. You know why the speed was making her angry?


In order to move fast through vinyasa, and breathe with every movement, your breath necessarily shortens and speeds up. 

Stress-pattern breathing, basically.

Plus, you tend to overuse your secondary breathing muscles in your neck & shoulders when breathing this way, rather than just using your primary breathing muscles (diaphragm and intercostals). So, what you are effectively doing, as you speed up your breath, is sending a message to your body that it's under stress.

If you breathe quite fast anyway, you won't get angry in fast vinyasa classes, because you won't have to artificially shorten your breath.

But if you breathe slowly?

Sorry, you are gonna have to move slowly. Otherwise, you will leave your yoga class agitated and pissed off.

A few deep breaths and slow movements can't be a bad thing.

Everyone breathes at their own pace - that's why something like Mysore-style Ashtanga practice is great. Everyone goes at their own pace, according to the pace of their own breath.

Even better, my perfect-world situation? A Free Form class where everyone works on their own, personal and personalised practice, and the teacher is there to help them with alignment and keep them in a safe zone. I used to run classes a bit like that as community events, but only the brave came.

I tend in the direction of breathing slowly, practicing slowly and teaching that way. It's what keeps my nervous system on an even keel. But when I was younger, I loved a fast practice. You just have to find what works for you, right now. The thing that DOESN'T piss you off. Just, you know, to be crystal clear. Yeah.


Yoga breathing to beat anxiety


Today's post on breathing away anxiety comes to you courtesy of Beth Wallis, who's just joined TeaMM...Yoga! as a yoga teacher & all round awesome business manager. 

Image via.

In this modern, fast paced world we all at some point or another have felt anxious or some degree of anxiety over a life event. If you haven’t, you luckypants,  this blog post probably won't interest you much!

 *Please note that if you experience anxiety on a regular basis and if it is interfering with your daily life then it is best to seek professional help.*

Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way I can say that the practice of pranayama – or breath control – can have profound effects on your mood.

The next time you are feeling stressed, agitated or anxious stop and notice your breathing pattern.

I bet you’ll find it’s either, short, shallow, fast or in your chest. These breath patterns can activate your sympathetic nervous system, which is commonly known as your ‘fight or flight’ response, which basically means you can get your self out of danger if needed. But as you can see this is not a very relaxing mood, you’re pretty much on high alert.

So, if you are constantly feeling stressed, agitated or anxious then your sympathetic nervous system is constantly switched on and this may lead to other health problems (while is a whole other blog post!). There is science to back up the claims now that by regulating your breathing you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system (our ‘calming’ nervous system, also known as rest and digest) and reduce stress and anxiety. So even though the yogis have been saying it for centuries the scientists have finally caught up!

It is important to go at your own pace and not force any of the practices.

In time yoga and all its many aspects, including asana (physical postures), pranayama (breath control) or meditation, can help us see our thoughts as transient and impermanent allowing us the realisation that our thoughts will just pass by if we let them and we do not need to react to each and every one that enters our head. Our minds like to stay busy and like to repeat our ‘stories’ over and over again. It is usually this repetition of stories that may cause anxiety. In extreme cases this anxiety can be felt as a physical response in the form of an anxiety attack (or panic attack). In times like these it is helpful to remember our thoughts will just pass if we let them and by focusing on something more tangible like our body or breath we can start to slowly feel calmer again.

In particular Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) has a calming effect on the nervous system and may help you move out of your sympathetic nervous system and activate your parasympathetic nervous system promoting a calming feeling. For a full and detailed instruction on how to perform Nadi Shodhana please click on the link to this video. You can even practice it while watching it!

Nadi Shodhana is a great breath practice to start with but if it makes you feel more anxious, or like you can't breathe, or you have a blocked nose or hay fever, there's the lovely & simple abdominal breathing. This chap reckons breathing right is the single best thing you can do for your health:

If this feels comfortable for you, you can add in a lengthened exhalation. Start by inhaling as usual, counting the breath to a number that is comfortable i.e. the inhalation is 3 or 4 counts long. Then on the exhalation add an extra 2 counts on to start. In time you may be able to double the length of your exhalation so it becomes a 1:2 breath count ratio (inhalation to exhalation). By lengthening out your exhalation you begin to move into diaphragmatic breathing which again stimulates your parasympathetic nervous to create a relaxation response. Be sure to notice that your breath is smooth, quiet and not forced in any way.

Even 2 minutes of a pranayama practice will noticeably change the way you feel. So next time you are feeling slightly anxious give one of these a go for just 2 minutes, you never know, you might just notice a difference and want to increase the following practice to 5 minutes, then to 10!

If you want to explore even more yoga breathing techniques, pop over and read this article.


beth headshot.

About the author: Beth Wallis is a yoga teacher partway to her qualification as a yoga therapist, mumma of two gorgeous girls under five, television producer, and co-owner of a first aid training business. She knows a bit about feeling anxious & overwhelmed. Luckily, she also knows about yoga.

What style of yoga do mm...Yoga! teach?

Good question. We teach what can really be best described as 'corporate yoga'. I.e. people will get challenged, but the pace isn't too fast as it's silly to expect folks to come straight out of work mode & meetings and into a very fast moving yoga class where the risk of injury exists.

 We sometimes call it 'slow power yoga' so that people know they will be doing lots of lunges, squats, and planks, but that they won't be moving as fast as in a traditional vinyasa class.

We do a lot of strength and postural work, too, so people can get through their daily lives feeling more physically comfortable and calmer.

 Here's a sample of how a mm...Yoga! class might look:

  • Start in savasana (lying on your back) with breath awareness
  • shoulder warm ups
  • cat-cow
  • down dog (where we asess what people’s shoulder girdles are doing and their hamstring mobility)
karen down dog
karen down dog
squatting is good for you ass-ana!
squatting is good for you ass-ana!
  • short rest on back, then core work, bridge pose, maybe side plank if appropriate:
  • reclining twist
reclining twist
reclining twist
  • savasana (guided relaxation)

Good Posture

What is good posture? It’s a confusing question, and there seem to be all sorts of odd ideas about it, even in the yoga world. This excellent article, quoting Esther Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back,  lays some of the most common myths to rest:

MYTH 1 If you want to correct poor posture, straighten up. Forcing a straight body position does nothing to address the reason for poor posture and can cause muscle tension and distortion of the spine. In time, the discomfort and fatigue cause many to slouch again.

MYTH 2 Keeping your chin up and chest out constitutes great posture. Pushing the chest out and tilting the head back creates muscle tension and exaggerates the cervical and lumbar curves, potentially hindering circulation to these areas and pinching nerve roots.

MYTH 3 Good posture requires mental and physical effort. The body strives to heal itself and when posture is good you look and feel better. As new movement patterns are established, they become a habit, increasingly instinctive and natural.

MYTH 4 It is too late to change my posture. It is never too late to improve your posture. The body is resilient and was designed to move, so it adapts well to most activities. Studies reveal that even people in their 80s and 90s can improve their posture, giving them more mobility, independence, health and quality of life.

If you are unaccustomed to being active, work towards conditioning the body gradually. Although muscular strength is vital for support and stability of the spinal column, relaxation is also important. When muscles are overworked, the risk of injury increases, so allow time for rest and recovery.

MYTH 5 You should always breathe through the belly. ”Breathing through the belly has been regarded by some experts as the only way we should breathe,” Gokhale says. ”In fact, different kinds of breathing are needed for different kinds of movement. Belly breathing is appropriate when you have an elevated need for oxygen (as when you are running) or breath control (as when you are playing the saxophone).

”Otherwise, when at rest, inhalations should primarily expand the chest cavity and lengthen the back, only slightly moving the belly. Movement of the chest and back helps in maintaining normal rib cage size and shape, and fosters healthy circulation.”

MYTH 6 Good posture derives from being fit and active. Gokhale says: ”This would be like driving around with a crooked axle, hoping that the driving alone will straighten it out.” If a person has poor posture, underlying issues must be addressed. Increasing activity does not guarantee a solution and can cause injuries instead of improvement. It is far better to focus on good posture in its own right, or alongside increased activity. Once you have good posture, you will get much more out of your activity.