In any yoga class I’ve attended, the focus has never been on crazy positions and flexibility of the body. All poses were optional. It was always about the breath. As it should be; it is easy to focus on the body, less so on the involuntary act of breathing. It’s involuntary; it happens even when we’re not thinking about it, so why should we examine it?
Well, breath can make things easier or harder. I’m not sure how it worked out with evolution that we’ll breathe shallow or hold our breath under duress, but so it goes. It’s weird, isn’t it? Breath sends oxygen to the lungs, where it goes into the blood, which delivers it to every cell to do its job. Every cell needs oxygen, so when you’re breathing efficiently, your whole body works better. You have more energy and less fatigue. You think more clearly and are better able to handle stress. Your pain tolerance goes up. It is a beneficial cycle with good posture. When you are aware of your posture, you breathe better, when you breathe better, you have the energy not to slouch so much.
Things tend to be easier on an exhale. Perhaps this is why we sigh or shout in frustration. You can test ease-on-exhale with weight-lifting or push-ups. Try 10 reps without paying attention to your breathing. (And since I said not to think about the purple elephant, you may notice that you’re holding your breath a lot!) Then try 10 reps, breathing out on the push.
For some people, mindfulness is enough. Some people benefit from doing breathing exercises. Laughter is great breathing exercise. Got a long commute? Vent your road rage by singing instead.