Breathing is something we tend to take for granted. But when we stop and realize life begins when breathing begins and life ends when breathing ends we begin to understand the importance of breath.
Breathing is an important part of yoga. In fact it is the fourth limb of yoga Pranayama consists of breathing exercises to control the breath and clear obstacles which free the flow of breath and prana or life energy.
A regular pranayama practice can work on the physical level to use and strengthen the “whole range of our respiratory organs” by breathing into the belly, side ribs and chest. We can also counter the fight or flight response by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system through our breath.
On a physical level pranayama techniques help us use and strengthen the full range of our respiratory organs. We can explore the lower, middle and upper parts of the breath and learn to regulate our inhalation, retention and exhalation of breath.
While our emotions do change our breathing patterns, we can also learn to change our breath patterns to calm or energize ourselves. This can begin with just stopping to be consciously aware of our breath. It can really be a simple as stopping, reminding ourselves to breathe and taking a few deep, conscious breaths to calm down anger, fear or other emotions which may arise in difficult situations.
Breathing is an integral part of our yoga practice as we pair our movements with our breath. We also focus on our breath as a form of mindfulness practice. There are also specific breath practices which have their own benefits. I will only list few here. For more information on pranayama be sure to check our the resources below.
- Complete Belly Breath
- Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) to feel calmer.` `
- Ocean’s Breath (Ujjayi pronounced oo-jai) to soothe and settle the mind.
- Energizing Breath (Bhastrika) for of energy and to invigorate your mind.
This has been just to get you thinking about the importance of breath and breath practice. I have not even begun to scratch the surface of pranayma. For more information please check out the links below.