An essential component of yoga is pranayama which is all about the breath. Prana means vital life force and ayama (extension).
Pranayama is the word used to describe breathing exercises that enhance the flow of this life force energy. The breath breathes itself with no conscious effort on our part but we can, to a certain extent, control how we breathe through our pranayama practice. Therefore, helping us to manage our emotional states much better. You may notice how when you feel stressed or alert you hold the breath, and when you feel relaxed, perhaps when hugging a loved one, the breath deepens. How we breathe directly affects how our body and mind experience life. The breath can help us to be present, bringing focus to the mind. Breath focus can help to reduce stress and calm the body. When we breathe deeply, and particularly when we extend the exhalation, our nervous system down regulates into the parasympathetic, also known as the “rest and digest” mode. This takes us out of our stress response and allows us to integrate our experiences, digest our food and be able to relax properly. How amazing is that!