I don't know exactly why or how things started to change. To this day my view on yoga is constantly evolving - a slow and steady process of thoughts and ideas passed down by teachers far wiser than me clicking into place. What I can tell you now though - after practicing for many years, completing my teacher training, becoming a yoga teacher and then a yoga studio owner – is that breathing is magical. Purely and simply it is transformative in a way that nothing else I have come across in my life is.
So what is it that is so miraculous about breathing? In yoga, pranayama (breath work) has been practiced for thousands of years, and it is only now that modern science is attempting to explain what generations of yogis have intuitively understood. In simple combinations of three motions - one by which we draw the breath in, another by which we expel it out, and the third action in which the breath is held in the lungs, or stopped from entering the lungs – we are able to create exercises designed to have a myriad of different effects on our physical bodies and consciousness levels.
In recent years there have been numerous studies relating to pranayama – looking at everything from its effects on pulmonary (lung) and cardiovascular (heart) function, to its ability to impact on our emotional health and its capacity to make changes to the body on a cellular level. While many of the mechanisms of action for this are still unclear, results seem to indicate nothing but positive associations with a regular pranayama practice (and even more if you look at combined yoga asana and pranayama practice). Science is catching up slowly to what yogis have known for centuries. Breathing will improve your health and happiness.
Focusing on our breath pulls us in to the present moment. When we focus on our breath all of our thoughts about the past and our worries for our future cease to exist for a few moments. We feel clarity - a brief union between our mind and our soul - however fleeting. The next time you feel your anxiety levels rising – whether you’re annoyed, frustrated, angry, scared or unsure of what to do next - just take three deep breaths, in and out through the nose, using your full lung capacity, diaphragm to collarbone. Then make your decision. Decide whether you’re going to yell, or run, or go through with that thing that terrifies you, but make that decision with clarity.
We can also use our breath to pull us into the present moment at times of immense joy, happiness and love. Next time you find yourself in a beautiful place, a beautiful situation, part of a heartfelt embrace - take three deep breaths. I promise that you will have a life of less regrets, of deeper happiness, of greater peace.
Three deep breaths have helped me avoid numerous unnecessary arguments with loved ones, potentially getting fired and making more than one pretty poor decision. Three deep breaths pushed me to book that one way ticket to the other side of the world (solo), sign up for teacher training and tell the love of my life that he is the one for me.
I always love to remember this passage by Eckhart Tolle on breathing:
“Someone recently showed me the annual prospectus of a large spiritual organization. When I looked through it, I was impressed by the wide choice of interesting seminars and workshops. It reminded me of a smorgasbord, one of those Scandinavian buffets where you can take your pick from a huge variety of enticing dishes. The person asked me whether I could recommend one or two courses. “I don’t know,” I said. “They all look so interesting. But I do know this,” I added. “Be aware of your breathing as often as you are able, whenever you remember. Do that for one year, and it will be more powerfully transformative than attending all of these courses. And it’s free.” - from A New Earth, Awakening to your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle, Page 244
Stretch Yoga Blog
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