Yoga Breathing: Recharge Your Life Through the Art of Breathing Control

Yoga Breathing: Recharge Your Life Through the Art of Breathing Control

Yoga-Breathing-Recharge-Your-Life-Through-the-Art-of-Breathing-ControlBreathing is the most basic activity of human life, and it is also the foundation of yoga practice. Yoga breathing is sometimes called pranayama. This two-part word contains “prana” which means “life force,” and “yama,” which means “control.” In other words, yoga breathing is about having control over the life force of breathing. Breathing, of course, is the most natural action, since nobody has to be taught how to do it. It is fundamental to life. Though people can technically go for days without water, and weeks without food, if breathing stops for even a few minutes, brain damage or even death can result. Yogic breathing includes methods for controlling inhalation and exhalation so that the body, mind, and soul can benefit most from this process. Anyone can experience the difference a change in breathing can make. Concentrating on inhaling while expanding the diaphragm and abdominal muscles is energizing, while concentrating on exhaling and “letting go” of negativity is soothing.

Effects of Breathing on the Body

Breathing is how the body provides oxygen to all systems and bodily tissues. When a person inhales, the bloodstream is oxygenated. When they exhale, carbon dioxide is expelled from the body. Exactly how a person breathes strongly influences how the body functions and how it feels. In stressful situations, people tend to breathe quicker and take shallower breaths. The result is often a feeling of fatigue, causing a person to slump, which contributes to further shallow breathing. This only increases the feeling of stress in the body. By learning to breathe deeply, with the body held erect and diaphragm expanding, a person learns to provide all bodily systems with sufficient levels of oxygen so that energy and mental clarity are maintained. Good breathing ensures that the body’s organs have the oxygen they need to function properly. Circulation improves, digestion takes place more efficiently, and the body takes better advantage of the nutrients taken in from foods. Muscles have the oxygenation necessary to do their work better, and the brain is able to remain clear and calm, even under stress. Yoga breathing, whether used in a yoga class or elsewhere, imparts a sense of peaceful competence that carries over into the activities of daily life.

Effects of Breathing on the Mind

Most people think of breathing as mostly benefiting the lungs, but without good oxygen intake the brain, which controls all bodily functions, cannot function optimally. When a person feels stressed or overwhelmed, one of the quickest ways to address those feelings is to practice yoga breathing. Concentrating on inhaling and allowing the lungs to expand fully brings a nearly instantaneous improvement in feelings of alertness. Concentrating on exhaling helps a person learn to let go of negativity along with the carbon dioxide that is expelled from the body in the process. One reason yoga emphasizes breathing is that performing the various asans, or poses involved in yoga requires presence of mind in order to receive the maximum benefit from them. Sure, it is possible when performing yoga to “phone it in” and do the poses without mindfulness, but being present in mind and body helps the body respond to changes in position so that a person improves their strength and flexibility naturally, and without injury. Yoga classes, whether they are gentle, low impact classes, or more intensive yoga forms, always emphasize proper breathing at the outset. Breathing is how humans develop their life force. It follows that poor breathing leads to sub-optimal mental performance, and consequently to sub-optimal physical performance.

Breathing and Meditation

Breathing in yoga is not only about energizing or calming the mind and body. It is also the key to meditation, which is an integral part of yoga. Deep breathing helps a person enter a meditative state, where they can gain control over feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and stress. When these feelings are expelled, the mind opens up to more positive emotions. Meditative mantras and affirmations work naturally with the rhythm of breathing, with the words timed to coincide with inhalation and exhalation. Tension is expelled from the body, helping the body achieve the relaxed state where meditation can do its positive work. A relaxed body and mind help a person progress on their spiritual journey and leave behind negative responses to the stresses of everyday life. Awareness of the sensation of breathing is one of the first goals of meditation because it allows a person to clear their mind and open it up to positive energy. Just as the churning water of a lake in a storm stirs up sediment and sludge, a churning mind dredges up negativity and unhealthy thoughts. Learning to meditate is similar to watching a body of water calm after a storm, allowing dirt and sediment to gently sink to the bottom, clearing the water. Even if a person never progresses beyond basic yoga breathing, they will still benefit from the clarity of mind and sense of empowerment that result from proper breathing.

Photo Credit

Vancouver Health Coach