Of all the benefits I’ve received from the teachings and practices of yoga, discovering, connecting to, and working with my breath has been arguably the most transformative. And it’s no wonder, it’s said that breathing well can have many physiological benefits such as the following:
- Reducing stress levels in the body
- Increasing heart rate variability
- Reducing anxiety & depression
- Relieving pain
- Better regulating the body’s reaction to stress and fatigue
- Strengthening the immune system
- Increasing energy
- Stimulating the lymphatic system
- Increasing calm
- Enhancing emotional resilience
- Improving sleep
To name a few.
I find these wildly fascinating, interesting and affirming as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist. But there is something more to it, something beautiful, something magical, something holy that I find has the most meaning, yet the most intangible impact.
David Frawley writes that “Prana has many levels of meaning, from the physical breath to the energy of consciousness itself. Prana is not only the basic life-force, it is the original creative power. It is the master form of all energy working at every level of our being. Indeed the entire universe is a manifestation of prana.”
Parmahansa Yogananda said that “Pranayama is the bridge that one must pass over to get from physical consciousness to this divine awareness within. If you would know God, you must practice pranayama.”
These two passages help put to words some of the experience I’ve felt through the breath. It is when I connect with my breath that I feel most a live and a part of life itself. It’s when I can recognize that there is much more to me beneath the surface of my body, thoughts, feelings, emotions. It is when I feel elevated, connected to nature, Spirit and “oneness” that is often spoken about in yoga. For me, it is the greatest gift.
Maybe you feel it too. Or perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to share with a client or student some simple tools to experience the breath (perhaps for the first time) that has had a dramatic shift on the whole trajectory of their life. In yoga therapy, I find it’s often like that. Not so much about magical postures or sequences, or how much anatomy you know, but it’s about remembering, reclaiming who you are. And for me, the doorway into that is through the breath.
Again, David Frawley. “The prana in us gives us life and allows us to act. We must learn to be open to and welcome this greater force and seek to bring it more fully into our life and actions. This is one of the greatest secrets of yoga.”