The first act of life – breathing.
The last act of life – breathing.
Everything else lies somewhere in the middle but seems to assume utmost importance in our life. And this key element called breath, driving our very life journey, how often do we stop to observe the process of breathing in and out during the day? We don't feel the need to because it is so natural. But do you know a little attention on the way we breathe can open up numerous secrets to good health? Increased immunity, a calm and relaxed mind, and a happy state of being, for starters? All this by learning to breathe right!
But who needs to learn how to breathe? Doesn't it keep happening on its own all the time? Yes, but pranayamas (breathing techniques) help regulate the flow of breath, removing any blocks in the nadis (subtle energy channels) so that both our body and mind stay healthy. Let's look at the key role the breath plays in yoga.
Your breath determines your state of mind
Our breath is our dearest companion. A companion who never loses sight of what emotion we are experiencing at any given moment of time. Think about it – isn’t your breath really fast when you are angry and smooth and mellow when you are calm? This signifies that breath is not only linked to the body but also to the mind. And we all want a happy state of mind, right? This is where pranayama can help. By paying attention to your breath through breathing exercises, you can bring the mind to a pleasant state by enhancing and regulating the life force in the system.
The term pranayama is made up of two words – prana (life force energy or breath) and yama (regulating or causing a break). As such, by breaking the normal breathing pattern, which happens in pranayama, we attend to the breath, and in turn to the health of our body and mind. Pranayamas fill the body with plenty of prana which makes you feel energetic and positive. On the other hand, a low level of prana in the body can be a reason for increased feelings of anxiety or stress.
You can relax in difficult asanas by being aware of your breath
Can you imagine relaxing in Boat Posture (Naukasana) or Superman Pose (Viparita Shalabhasana)? Sounds impossible? Well, it can be possible only by paying a little attention to our breath while we hold in these postures. What happens by bringing your awareness on the breath? The mind becomes relaxed and so you are better able to relax in the pose. From concentrating on the discomfort in the posture, the attention shifts to relaxing more in the pose. Try this out the next time you do your asana practice.
Another advantage of coordinating your breath with the body postures – sometimes the mind may wander off on its own trip as you exercise. The body keeps moving but the mind is elsewhere. On such moments, gently bringing your awareness to the breath brings back the mind to the present moment so that you are aware of the stretch where it happens and give your 100 percent to the asana practice. Also try getting a gentle smile on your face as you practice these postures. It makes a lot of difference! You will be able to relax more in the yoga pose and also enjoy it.
How to coordinate your breath with postures?
Breathe in whenever there is a feeling of expansion in the chest area. For example, when you stretch your arms up or bend backwards.
Breathe out when you feel contraction or a squeeze in your abdomen. For example, when you bend forward and downwards or twist your spine.
Breathe out when you come out of a pose and return to normal position.
Do not hold your breath unless instructed to do so. Holding the breath unconsciously is generally associated with struggling in that pose.
Yoga practice helps develop the body and mind bringing a lot of health benefits yet is not a substitute for medicine. It is important to learn and practice yoga techniques under the supervision of a trained Sri Sri Yoga teacher. In case of any medical condition, practice yoga techniques after consulting a doctor and a Sri Sri Yoga teacher. Find a Sri Sri Yoga course at an Art of Living Center near you. Do you need information on courses or share feedback? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.