The first act of life is breathing.
The last act of life is breathing.
Everything else lies in the middle but seems to assume the utmost importance in our lives. 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 to how 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 body and mind stay healthy. So let’s look at the critical 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. Think about it—isn’t your breath 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 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 comprises two words—prana (life force energy or breath) and yama (regulating or causing a break). Pranayamas fill the body with plenty of prana, making 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. 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.
You Can Relax in Difficult Asanas by Being Aware of Your Breath
Relaxing in Boat Posture (Naukasana) or Superman Pose (Viparita Shalabhasana) sounds impossible, right? Well, it can be possible by paying a little attention to the breath while holding these postures. What happens when you bring awareness to the breath? The mind becomes relaxed, and your attention shifts to relaxing more in the pose instead of focusing on the discomfort of the posture. Try this out the next time you do your asana practice.
Another advantage of coordinating your breath with the body postures? Sometimes the mind wanders off on its own trip as you exercise. The body keeps moving, but the mind is elsewhere. In these moments, gently bringing your awareness to the breath brings the mind back to the present moment so that you are aware of the stretch where it happens and can give 100 percent to the practice. Also, try putting 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 pose and enjoy it.
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 backward.
- Breathe out when you feel a 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 your normal position.
- Do not hold your breath unless instructed to do so. Unconsciously holding the breath is generally associated with struggling in that pose.
Yoga practice helps develop the body and mind. It brings many health benefits but is not a substitute for medicine. Therefore, it is essential to learn and practice yoga postures under the supervision of a trained teacher. In case of medical conditions, practice yoga postures after consulting a doctor.