“All chronic pain, suffering and diseases are caused by a lack of oxygen at the cell level”
Dr. Arthur C. Guyton, M.D., Textbook of Medical Physiology.
The breath is intimately connected to our life force energy, what yogis call Prana. In a yoga practice, the breath is the most fundamental point of awareness, everything gets built on its foundation.
If we aren’t breathing well and by that I mean shallow, just using a small portion of the lungs, our life force becomes depleted and we lose our vitality. Blockages are created, which can make us ill if they become chronic. Yoga is a powerful preventative medicine because the combination of the postures with breath and awareness clears blockages in the body and mind.
As you increase the capacity of your lungs, more oxygen becomes available for the body to use as fuel for your muscles. Oxygen rich blood feeds all the cells so they can function at an optimum level. It creates healing in areas of the body which need it.
The word pranayama literally means life force control or life extension. A compound of Sanskrit terms, it has been interpreted in two ways:
prana or pran as the “life force” or “vital energy” and the complementary term
yama is often translated as “restraint” or “control”
ayama which has the meaning of expansion or extension.
Control of your breath gives you control of your mind and your nervous system. Shallow breathing is a symptom of fight/flight mode. Deeper, relaxed breathing of 5-6 breaths per minute – which is equivalent to 6 seconds in and 6 seconds out – is the optimal breath pattern for any human being. This has a huge impact on how you think and feel, how your body functions and how the Prana moves through you.
When you are stuck in your head, the breath is the simplest thing to become aware of and you will notice instantly that you feel more grounded and connected to your body, just by that small shift. By improving the quality of your breathing you inhabit your body more fully and the mind–body connection becomes more Alive.
Beyond the physical, the breath brings you back to the source of who you are. The life force doesn’t exist without the breath so there is a very intimate relationship between the two. All the time I see huge shifts in people who tap into this power. The integrating and harmonising of all levels of being: physical, mental, emotional, energetic, psychic and spiritual is the ultimate purpose of a yoga practice. When I do 1 on 1’s with students the first things I teach them is to focus on are breath and awareness. And how to put the posture more in the back ground.
“At the most superficial level, yoga is about the postures, the physical positions……. Whereas a much deeper practice is about stimulating and observing the flows of energy in the body as we follow the breath through our practice.”
So don’t practice at the periphery, come into the source. Come away from chasing the so called perfection in the posture. And rather than looking for its depth, look for the form.Try and park your ego and practice without it because it is desperate to do your practice for you and it shuts out your presence and your breathing.
A deep breath is a deep practice.