In Yoga we are told that breath is the singular most important thing. We’ve all been told by our yoga teachers to breathe deeply, to consciously bring awareness to our breaths, to synchronize breath and movement, and so on. Indeed, I’ve come to learn during this course that the power of our breaths is truly astonishing and far-reaching. Our breath is the key to unlocking our true potential.
Breath is life.
Breathing is the most essential function of the body that can be directly controlled. It not only powers our cardiovascular system (we would die in a matter of minutes if we stopped breathing), but also serves as a critical ingredient in all our body’s electro-chemical processes. As Swami Sivananda said, “A yogi measures the span of life by the number of breaths, not by the number of years.” Thus, learning to control, extend, and maximize each breath we take is the key to longevity.
Conscious breathing heals.
Unconscious breathing is controlled by the medulla oblongata in the brain, while conscious breathing comes from the more evolved areas of the brain in the cerebral cortex which impact emotions and thoughts. This helps promote mental clarity and focus, an inner calm. This also helps removes blockages to allow prana to flow more freely to enable the body to heal and repair more quickly.
Pranayama is a powerful tool.
Prana means life, vitality, or energy, which is inherent in our breath. Ayama means length, expansion, or control. Thus, pranayama is the extension and control of the breath. Using ancient pranayama techniques passed down through Yogic tradition, we can regulate our physical and mental states to achieve homeostasis, i.e. healthy body and mind. Additionally, Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras instructs the use of breath to achieve higher states of consciousness, i.e. spiritual growth.
Asana without proper breath is… not Yoga.
Proper breathing technique during Asana makes a meaningful difference in ability, awareness, safety and comfort. More importantly, not breathing defeats the purpose of practicing Asana in the first place, which is to prepare the body and mind for a meditative state to aid spiritual growth. Without the breath to connect the body and mind, Yoga would just be gymnastic!