When we are born we inhale and exhale our first breath. This is our introduction into the world. The beat of our heart is the rhythm of life that we all share.
It’s easy to forget that at the end of the day, we’re all connected.
We’re all very different. We all look different and have varied personalities.
However, what we all have in common is…
In yoga we consciously make a connection with our breath and become aware and one with it.
Or at least try to. That’s why it’s called practice, right?
However, a lot of people perform shallow breathing on a daily basis.
What this means is that they are meeting the minimum oxygen requirement.
Almost always grasping it and having to catch it.
That’s stressful and can surely lead to lingering feelings of anxiety. Why wouldn’t it?
Becoming aware of when our breathing becomes shallow can help us to recognize the times when we feel stressed or anxious. Experiment for yourself and notice your breathing when you are under stress. I’m positive you will see what I’m talking about.
Let’s keep going.
The majority of us perform normal breathing.
Not too aware of our breath unless we’re out doing cardio and a lack of breath makes us realize that it is of importance and a good indication of physical health and fitness.
Or maybe we catch a cold and begin to feel uncomfortable due to all the coughing. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. This too can shed light onto our breathing or lack there of.
Perhaps we notice that our lungs are not as strong as we’d like them to be. Time to do more regular exercise. We don’t want to get sick again!
Shallow breathing does not leave us with the chance to tap into present as easily as it would be if we managed our breathing better.
B.K.S. Iyengar said:
“Prana is the energy permeating the universe at all levels. It is physical, mental, intellectual, sexual, spiritual, and cosmic energy.”
In order to live up to our full potential, we need to take control of our breathing.
We put this prana (life force) into everything that we do on a daily basis.
Have you ever noticed that when we’re deeply engaged in an activity such a reading, that we almost stop breathing?
At some point we take a massive inhale and then continue reading.
This deep breathing is usually coming from the abdominal area.
Deep breathing pacifies the brain and allows the chit chatter to settle down.
Our constant flow of thoughts drift off into the distance, at least for a while.
Deep abdominal breathing facilitates full oxygen exchange which means more oxygen entering the body and more carbon dioxide expelled from the body.
It is not surprising that over time, deep breathing can slow the heartbeat and reduce and stabilize blood pressure.
No wonder we’ve been told to take a few deep breaths before reacting to a situation.
By bringing our attention to our breath in these moments, we bring ourselves into the actual/present moment and gain clarity as to what our response should be, instead of reacting without thinking.
I want to encourage people who feel that they are not living in the present, to bring attention to their breath and feel the aliveness that is within each one of them. Meditate on your breath.
This is what makes yoga quite different to other forms of exercise.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras:
sthira = steady, stable, motionless
sukham = comfortable, ease filled
asanam – meditation posture (from the root ~as, which means to “to sit”)
This is what we’re inevitably working towards in yoga.
Our practice becomes a meditative one over time, one where we’re moving but with a steady state of awareness.
Throw in creativity and the ability to transition into any posture we’re capable of, yoga and connecting with our breath is a space where we can practice moving into presence.
We cultivate our awareness built up from the mat and incorporate it into our daily lives.
We begin with the physical, external body, doing asana and slowly but surely travel inwards through all the sheaths of our body towards our core.
You Got This Far
I have a lot to write about yogic breathing but I wanted to keep the focus on how effective breathing practices elevate energy levels as well as create harmony and happiness from within.
I’m going to share the insights I have found by reading Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar – a very many times.
Each read through, I’ve extracted more and more wisdom from his teachings.
Those of you who practice Iyengar yoga – please leave a comment sharing your experience.
Here’s a favourite excerpt of mine about pranayama.
“If you were suddenly to triple strength of the electrical current arriving in your house, you would not think the kettle would boil in a third of the usual time and your lights burn three times brighter. You know you would immediately burn out all the circuits and be left with nothing. Why should our body be any different? That is why Patanjali clearly stated that between the practice of asana and pranayama, there is a step up. There has to exist, through proficiency in asana, strength and stability in the circuitry of the body to withstand the increase in current that pranayama practice will bring.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
The more connected we become with our breath and the more aware we become, the more presence we may experience.
One need not sit in one position or lotus for hours on end in order to gain a glimpse of the present moment.
Our breath is our access into the present moment, the now, presence, and consciousness.
“All vibrating energies are prana.”
What breathing practices do you do? Are you interested in pranayama?