Xanet Scheepers

By Xanet Scheepers

Digital Lifestyle Editor

Can you really breathe your way to happiness?

We may have found the secret to being happy in life and it's not as complicated as you would think.

“When will you be happy?” This is one of the questions I was asked to think about at the end of my first online Meditation & Breath Workshop with the The Art of Living Foundation South Africa.

The answer might seem obvious, but once you actually start thinking about it you realise what a loaded question it really is. It kept me up half of the night, because the truth is I just didn’t know.

The second part of the question, “What do you need to be happy” was equally distressing.

After a sleepless night and the above questions having played centre stage in my mind for most of the day, I went into my second session. While I knew that a better job, a new car or a bigger house wasn’t the answer to these questions, I wasn’t quite prepared for the answer – which thinking back now – is quite obvious.

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How to be happy

True happiness lies in the present moment. You need to make yourself happy right now, in this moment. Your happiness doesn’t lie in the material things, past memories or future events. You hold your happiness in your own hands.

But if you think about it, we are seldom truly happy in every single present moment of our lives. We go through days when we feel a little down and sometimes even depressed. So how do we change this? How do you make yourself happy in the present moment?

You need to change your mindset.

Faculty members of The Art of Living Foundation South Africa Nutan Kessa and Kirtida Bhana explain that when you are feeling stressed, depressed or low in energy, it means that your “Prana” is low. Prana is a Sanskrit word that means life force energy and it comes from the term pranayama, which is a yoga breathing technique.

Sudarshan Kriya is another breathing technique that can improve your Prana. The Art of Living Foundation describes Sudarshan Kriya as a powerful, simple breathing technique that incorporates specific, natural rhythms of the breath, harmonising the body, mind and emotions.

Science has shown there is a direct link between breathing and your emotions. Instead of being overwhelmed by our emotions, we can transform them using different breathing techniques.

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Benefits of pranayama

Pranayama is much more than just sitting with your legs crossed and eyes closed while breathing in and out. There are also many different types of pranayama, but one of the techniques we focused on, called Bhastrika pranayama (bellow breath), helps to connect your mind and body and energise you.

I will admit that I was a little sceptical at first, but after practicing pranayama breathing techniques for three days, I really could feel the difference. I remember how tired I was on the second day of the workshop. After completing our breathing exercises, I really did feel much more energised. Not the type of energy associated with completing 20 burpees on the spot, I felt more alert and not as weary as I felt when we started the session.

Another benefit of this breathing technique is that it calms your mind. I spend about 15 minutes going through my breathing exercises one morning before work and I really felt a lot more focused. I felt like I wrote better – almost like the words just flowed through my fingertips.

Benefits of Sudarshan Kriya

This breathing technique helps to eliminate stress, fatigue and negative emptions like anger, frustration and depression, leaving your mind calm and focused and your body energised and completely relaxed.

Numerous independent studies have shown the Sudarshan Kriya breathing techniques (SKY) are effective stress management tools. Psychiatrists at India’s National Institute of Mental Health found that levels of the stress hormone cortisol are significantly lower in SKY practitioners.

Published research from Sweden shows that SKY significantly reduces the stress, anxiety and depression we face under the demands of everyday living. It increases our optimism and wellbeing. It’s as effective as standard anti-depressant drug therapy.

It’s difficult to explain the effect Sudarshan Kriya has on your mind and body when you haven’t experienced it yourself. Everyone will have a different experience. While practising SKY I felt completely relaxed and switched off, but I was still aware of my surroundings – it’s not like going into a trance.

I’ve also been feeling happier and a little more positive since completing this workshop. Yoga and meditation teach you so much more than just different breathing techniques to cope with stress and anxiety. You also learn so much about yourself and the things that influence your mindset.

Breathing is the first act of life. Within the breath is the unexplored secret of life.” – The Art of Living Foundation South Africa

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