“Take a deep breath and count to 10.”

How many times have you been told to do that when you were angry and about to say something ill-advised? As with many common sayings, there is truth in this one, truth on and off the yoga mat.

One of the physical markers of stress is short, shallow breathing. Lengthening the breath, taking the proverbial deep breath, not only signals the brain that it’s okay to relax but also fuels the body with oxygen. Yes, you can be energized and relaxed at the same time. It’s a powerful way to be.

On the yoga mat, we link movement to breath. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it increases your awareness of both your body and your movement, making it less likely that you’ll injure yourself. It also helps improve your focus by letting all those distractions drop away. It’s very hard to fret about an undone task on your desk when you’re consciously inhaling as you step into Warrior 1.

Off the mat, the breath can reduce stress, improve focus, protect against injury just like in yoga, and generally make us nicer to be around. All in favor, take a deep breath and count to 10!

What’s your favorite way to relax with your breath?

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