The breath is one of those aspects of the yoga practice that can easily fall into an air of, well, airy-fairyness; what with all the "...and breathe..." lines from yoga teachers, complete with the "yoga voice".
Apart from that, the breathing practice becomes airy-fairy when teachers over promise its benefits. For example, if your are promised a cure for cancer, diabetes, or any such disease. It can help manage insomnia, but it can't cure you of it. It can help you improve your physiological functions, but it can't miraculously make you loose weight.
All these are airy-fairy over promise.
However, attention to our breathing is very important; and the correct way, at that.
Deep, diaphragmatic, and controlled breathing allows us to:
Full oxygenate the body,
Helps in to gaseous exchange process,
Focuses the mind by anchoring it on something internal,
Activates the parasympathetic nervous system,
Regulates the heart rate, and
Calms the emotions.
Conversely, shallow (upper chest), short breaths can trigger the opposite of all these.
We don't want that.
This list is not, by any means, all there is to conscious breathing, but it's a good start!
This is why the practice of #Pranayama or #yogicbreath is an important part of the yoga practice and something we can tap into even off the mat, where we very much need it.
On the mat, the breath powers us through the flows (oxygenation) and helps with our concentration.
Off the mat, whenever stress or anxiety rushes our way, we can hold it at bay by breathing through our noses in a slow, deep and regular cadence.
This gives us the all-important space between us and our heightened emotions, so we can have a moment to think and choose our actions.
In short, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system and all those mentioned above.
So, whenever you can remember, be aware of your breath...and yes, it is very much a practical, relatable practice.