The way we breathe is strongly linked to the way we feel. When relaxed, we breathe slowly, and when anxious we breathe more quickly.
When we inhale we take in oxygen (O2), creating a waste product carbon dioxide (CO2) when we breathe out. With relaxed breathing, the levels of O2 and CO2 we produce are balanced, allowing us to function efficiently. Exercise too leads to an increase in breathing rate to take in more O2 to fuel the muscles, thereby producing more CO2 being expelled, and the O2/CO2 levels are balanced. However, when we are anxious our breathing rate increases and this same process applies but our bodies are not working any harder ie we are not necessarily exercising and not using up any extra O2 and thus the CO2 level in blood concentration drops, creating a state of alkalosis. This is why we feel light-headed, tingly, clammy and sweaty.
Balancing asanas can bring an amazing sense of freedom, strength and discipline but can be challenging – mostly for the mind. We pick a point to focus on but then the mental commentary starts, and rattles us!
Quite often we hear a lot of utterances of annoyance and frustration around us at this part of the practice too. Digging a bit deeper, this reveals a lot about our mental commentary or sense of ‘ahimsa’ (non-violence) toward ourselves, not just in practice,` but also in daily life. Practicing Ahimsa is one of the foundations of a well rounded yoga practice, and bringing our awareness to how this can be tested helps us develop not just our practice but also our inner peace and resilience.