“Prana is the universal source of breath, life-energy and conscious intelligence – as the navigating source of yoga practice and vital living”. Shiva Rae
When my children work themselves up into a frenzy, they often hear me saying, “just breathe”. After their initial reaction of “I don’t want to breathe”, because mum suggested it, they concede, and the situation dissolves. And what works with the children works with us, the sensible adults!
If you’ve ever faced a tough situation where you’ve tried everything but improved nothing, you might have noticed that at some point things shifted on their own. Maybe circumstances changed, or maybe it was your reaction to them, but ultimately something evolved. It’s useful to wonder what would have happened if, from the beginning, instead of worrying and scurrying, you had just… well… breathed.
Yogic tradition teaches that prana – air – is the primary life force, yet we spend much of our time unaware of our own breathing. Unconscious, often shallow, breathing does an inadequate job of inhaling oxygen and expelling toxins (especially carbon dioxide), leading to ailments ranging from premature aging to stress. Pranayama, the formal practice of controlling breath, is a fundamental part of yoga. Even in its simplest form, a Pranayama practice invites mental clarity, emotional calm, and physical well being. As renowned yoga teacher and writer Donna Farhi describes it:
“Full body breathing is an extraordinary symphony of powerful and subtle movements that massage our internal organs, oscillate our joints and alternately tone and release all the muscles in the body. It is a full participation with life.”
Fortunately, a Pranayama practice is easy to adopt both on and off the mat. Simply noticing your breath is a great start. Reminding yourself to do this at regular intervals in the day, on the bus, in the office, at the wheel, will reduce the amount of stress you carry around with you. For a more intense practice, there are multiple Pranayama techniques – ranging from ujjayi breath (victorious breath) found in ashtanga and yang style yoga classes to Kapalabhati (cleansing breath) used to help purify the nasal passages- each with its own specific benefits.
Vinyasa Yoga, the style of yoga we practice at HYL, actually translates as synchronised breath with movement. This ultimately leads to a more meditative practice.
Over the coming 7 weeks we will explore various pranayama and cleansing practices: Ujjayi, Bastrika, Kapalabhati, straw breathing, Loma/Viloma pranayama, Savitri pranayama and Nadi Sodana. Investigate Your Breath — Breath of Life! We all have the tools to tap into the power and wisdom of our breath every moment. We can do it when we are sitting in the car, at our desks, or whilst on our yoga mats. Take the risk to breathe more consciously this month and notice the effects on your life.