Pranayama - ancient tool to channel our breath, calm the mind, relax the body and unfold a serene meditative state

The secret to making better decisions: attending our breath
Exploring our breath as a tangible tool to harness our emotions, tackle stress and confusion, and make intuitive decisions that create impact!
1 Mar 2023

As world leaders, bureaucrats, and even executives, decision-making is all over our to-do lists. Many of these decisions are not just critical but life-changing for millions. While we have prowess in making decisions, several factors like stress, burnout, and even the state of our mind and emotions can sway our choices significantly and make us regret our decision later. So, how do we make sure that we make unbiased, accurate, and intuitive decisions that lead to extraordinary impact?

First, let’s understand what can go wrong with our decision-making process

With our fast-paced lifestyles, we have loads of tasks, too little time, and boundless thoughts. This hustle often leads to stress and triggers cortisol, making it harder for brain cells to talk to each other, resulting in foggy thinking and confusion. Here, it is crucial to notice that the nature of our work becomes a stressor! When this trigger stays turned on continuously, it pulls in a hoard of other troubles like anxiety, concentration impairment, and even depression. When our mind is in such a state, our intellect takes the back seat, and we tend to make hasty judgments, lose energy and focus, and end up with undesirable outcomes.

A stressful mind amplifies perplexity and confusion. Our breath is the tool to break through.

So how can we avoid stress and bring clarity so that decision-making becomes smooth and natural?

To have clarity while making decisions, two elements are essential: focus and relaxation (yes, at the same time!). More often than not, we have the focus, but a calm and relaxed state is missing when we are stressed or overthinking. Now, forcing our minds to relax just doesn’t work. It’s like telling your mind to sleep doesn’t help you sleep. Here comes the need for a tangible tool.

The tool: our own breath

Each human emotion creates a distinct breathing pattern. When we are anxious, our breath is short and feeble. Similarly, when we are sad, our breath is broken and abrupt. It is also true the other way around. Breathing in these patterns can bring about the associated emotions. The breathing pattern for a happy and calm mind is long and deep breaths. Voilà! Taking a long deep breath before making an important decision can bring you back to your happy, steady state where your intellect is in the driving seat. Several scientific studies, including researchers at Harvard, support that taking a few deep breaths before making crucial decisions can help resolve problems better. This is an excellent on-the-spot hack to get complete control of your choices and pave the way to better impact.

Going one step further

If just a single deep breath can serve as an agent of transformation, imagine how much impact the regular practice of breath awareness can have on our productivity, efficiency, and happiness. Our breath is one of the most potent sources of energy. We breathe around eleven thousand liters of air every day, and it is crucial that we live in such a way that it yields maximum energy supply to our brains and entire body. One of the eight components of yoga (Pranayama) focuses profoundly on breath awareness and directing the prana (our life force energy) to flow in particular channels, thus stimulating calmer states of mind and expanded forms of consciousness.

Through my practice as an international yoga teacher and evaluator, I could observe how regularly practicing simple breathing techniques like the Nadi Shodhana and Bhramari Pranayama for a few minutes significantly reduced stress and a bunch of other mental and physiological issues, improved concentration, and heightened levels of happiness in people of all ages worldwide. Several peer-reviewed studies from universities like Yale and Harvard have found advanced breathing techniques like the Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) to significantly reduce the stress hormone, enhance brain functioning, and heighten awareness for accurate perception and decision-making.

Making the best decisions via intuition

Each of us has sometimes experienced a ‘gut feeling’ while making an important decision in our daily lives, at work, or while brainstorming something new. This is intuition, the perfect thought at the right time, which yields the best possible results and increases speed, confidence, and creativity. The prerequisite to intuition is a happy and meditative mind. Creativity and intuition can only spring forth where peace and steadiness exist, which is possible when the current chaos in the mind is eliminated. Attending to our breath is an excellent tool for doing so.

In a Nutshell

Our breath is calling out for attention. Merely being aware of our breath patterns can lead to better decisions at work, and some practice of channeling our breath more efficiently can take the experience of our life one step higher.

* Vedant Kulkarni is an International Yoga Master, recognized and accredited by the Government of India.
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