Breathing in yoga practice
Why all the attention on the breath in yoga practice?
You've turned up to yoga class, to relax and do gentle exercises. But the teacher keeps going on about breathing all the time! What's that all about? You live! You breathe! Yet, you live, most of the time, without being conscious that breathing happens. So, you breathe without having to think about it, then why mention the breath at all, and tell you when and how to breathe?
· Attention to your breath and engagement with your breath can:
o soothe and clear your scattered and chattering mind
o be a tool for conscious living
o offer opportunities to centre and ground yourself
o support your body
o support your body in movement
o support your health
o have the capacity to improve your health
o boost or balance your energy levels
o support you through life's ups and downs
No doubt there is more to add to the list!
Breathing is integral to all aspects of yourself. It is important for the function of your:
· physical body
· energy levels
For example, your physical body needs you to breathe for all your body’s systems to work in a stable and smooth way. This includes cardiovascular, digestive, nervous and musculoskeletal systems.
Focus and engage when breathing, then you exert an influence on any aspect of yourself. Please know that these effects have the potential to be positive or negative. They can create harmony or disharmony. Worry not though! There are many reasons to focus on breath in practice, and you can avoid undesirable effects.
Your focus when breathing makes your practice complete. It will help create harmony and stability. The states of body, breath and mind mirror each other:
· the state of your body affects your breath and mind
· the state of your breath affects your body and the mind
· the state of your mind affects your body and the breath
If you focus on yourself, you will see this in action. With your mind calm and quiet, your breath and body reflect the same. But, at times you might find one or more of these feels stressed and disturbed. You work on your breathing to calm your mind. You can’t concentrate, because your body feels too stiff or too restless. This distracts your mind further. You find it difficult to focus on calm breathing. Move your body with care and in harmony with your breathing. You feel less stiff and restless. Your breathing becomes more stable, and you are well on the way to feeling calmer in your mind.
Important practice note
The practices of yoga involve focused breathing. They give you many tools to help you ride the waves of life with greater ease, resolve and courage. Choose a stable practice. Be stable within that practice. Live a more stable and empowered life. The yoga practices are suggestions. Try them, learn them, practise them. Adapt, or modify them as your circumstances, needs and wants dictate.
In future articles... how to do the practices (that’s the good stuff!), possible effects and guidelines for practice.