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Whether you live in Sayulita all year, part time, or are just visiting for a few weeks, I’m pretty sure you breathe. However, some of us are better at it than others. You may discover in your first surf lesson just how important your breath control is. An extra push from our beloved Pacific will remind you in a New York second. In any sport your breath is your best friend or your worst enemy. Once you’ve lost control of your breath, your performance goes down and your mind loses its focus. This may be easily understood in an event like running the mile, but it's something we all need to understand and practice daily, even if you're not running up and down the beaches of Sayulita.
A Harvard study from a few years back brought a new sense of awareness to breath control. It showed that over 70% of people in the study breathed incorrectly. Now that’s a crazy number! How does one breath wrong exactly?
Here’s how: When you inhale, your belly should expand and become larger. When you exhale, the belly should pull back towards the spine and become smaller.
It’s that simple, but a staggering number of us do this in the exact opposite way. Some people exhale while pushing their bellies out, unconsciously of course. This is not good for an alarming number of reasons. It cuts off your exhalations, which limits your next inhalation, so you're not pulling in enough oxygen on your inhalations and causing stress, to name a few important ones. Breath and stress are deeply connected. Even in our wonderful little town of Sayulita, we can experience stress. Living in Mexico doesn’t erase that little devil from our lives.
This is not the end of the world. Pranayama “breath control” has been around for over 5000 years. The yogis of way back knew about stress, even back then. Calm the breath, and the mind calms. Calm the mind, and the breath calms. Either way you look at it, taking control of the power of the breath is good for you in your daily life and in a mile run. It helps you focus and de-stress.
So, let’s get started. Find a comfortable seat, such as the quiet beach of Playa de los Muertos in Sayulita, and sit still with an erect spine. Good posture with an open chest and long spine is important for proper breathing.
Next, breath in nice, slow, and evenly through the nose for a few seconds (say 4-8). As you are inhaling, not only make the chest expand, but also consciously make the belly get larger too. Hold that breath for a split second, then release it via the nose again in the same calm, slow manner. As you release the breath, begin pulling the belly inward, towards the spine. You may hold here for a split second too. Keep this up for a few minutes or just count your breaths and do several rounds. Try for 8-10 inhalations and exhalations. The breath is not forced and strong, it is calm, slow, and controlled.
This is a great stress buster. We will always have stress in our lives, whether we live in Sayulita or elsewhere. That’s a given. How we react to it is what really matters. So, try reacting to it with some Pranayama that takes your power back. Your newfound breath control could also help with whatever exercise program you like to do. After all, your breath is one of the most important aspects of health that exists.
Most yoga classes start out with a little breath work (Pranayama). You're welcome to pop into one of the many yoga classes Sayulita has to offer or practice on your own. Maybe be an overachiever and do both. Take what you learn in a structured class and do a bit on your own. Once you’ve created a habit, you may find that little devil isn’t bothering you so much. It’s not that he’s disappeared; it’s just that he’s starving because you’re not feeding him anymore.
Give Pranayama a try as you start your day. It’s a wonderful way to incorporate a few minutes of peace. Done on the beach with all the beauty Sayulita’s coastline has to offer is a guaranteed way to live a better life. Then begin everyday with a simple breath control practice. Enjoy!