Yoga in its wholeness draws upon and channels prana or life force energy; prana is harnessed and purified using breathing techniques and exercises called Pranayama, among others and yoga asana (postures) strengthens and detoxifies the body allowing space for the prana to flow freely.
To start let’s take yoga out of the equation. Breathing is anessential part of life…agreed? It is proven that we can survive a few days without food or water but without breath life ceases in minutes. Being that our breath is so essential to living, if we learn to regulate the breath we can enhance and maximise our health both physically and spiritually.
There is a strong link between the somatic (associated with the voluntary control of body movements) and autonomic(control system functioning largely below the level of consciousness-involuntary) nervous systems. Through our autonomic nervous system our brain is programmed to breathe throughout our life. We don’t have to remind ourselves to breathe every minute- thankfully! However, the amazing thing is that we also have the ability to regulate and control our breath with our conscious mind. By doing this we create a bridge between the two nervous systems and therefore between the conscious and subconscious mind. The magic of it all is that with the regular practice of breath control we can improve our mental health and overall well being.
A profound example is how effective breathing techniques are for pregnancy (specifically the delivery); by regulating the breath it calms the mind and allows the body to perform one of life’s biggest miracles.
With an inhale we invite universal energy (prana) into our system, clearing blockagesand healing us on many levels. With an exhalewe remove whatever toxins and impurities that are collected in us. We let go and allow the body to release and relax.
Our breath is the powerful link between body,mind, emotions and spirit.
- In order to move our bodies it is our mind that has the intention to move, and then we need to breathe to perform the physical task. By regulating the breath we can improve our movement, for example, our endurance and stamina while trekking or running.
- Our emotions have an effect on our breathing, for example, notice the breath when you or a child cries or if angry or tired…. By controlling the breath we regulate the emotions. Calm and soothing breath = calm emotions and clear mind! Happy Body is a Happy Spirit!
- Breathing is the most basic and simple form of meditation, unifying the spiritual and physical body, connecting with prana.
So when you bring it back to yoga you see how the vinyasa is teaching us to harness prana. Vinyasa is the linking of the body movement with controlled breath.
Try it now – take a moment to sit, close the eyes and take a really nice, big deepbreath in and then slowly, smoothlyexhale – sit with this feeling. Appreciate the power of your breath!