Breathing is one of our most natural functions. We breathe automatically on every instant of our lives, since our first inhalation down to our final exhalation. Is it probably the most important biological process which we mostly ignore. We qualify what we eat and we quantify what we drink, but most of the times we do not stop to think on how we breathe. Being conscious of the most basic things that exist within ourselves is essential to start paying attention to the world around us. Focusing on breathing is the most powerful thing we can do to connect to the present moment. Is there any better way to understand our presence in the world than to understand the air we inhale and exhale on every moment?
Deep, conscious breathing provides invaluable benefits to our brain and soul. Once connected directly with our nervous system, it is possible to remain calm if we know how to control our breathing. Integrating a new habit into our routine, with slow and deep breathing exercises, is a way to improve our physical and mental well-being. You should allow some time for fresh air to fill your lungs so that the old, impure air that remains at rest can be replaced. Inhale deeply, hold your breath for a few moments, and exhale in a controlled manner. By doing this exercise consciously for two to three minutes, you are allowing your lungs to taste the new air that regenerates and brings us new life.
One of the first teachings of Yoga is precisely the proper use of the breath, since it is through this conscious action that we connect our heart to the body and express the joy of living in the world. Breathing becomes central to the practice of Yoga, since it is not only necessary for the movement required to achieve its postures but also to remain in those postures. Yoga classes should dedicate a few initial minutes to specific breathing techniques (Pranayamas), for control, mental discipline and focus on the present moment. It is important to bear in mind that we all breathe differently and, regardless of how others do it, we must accept it and breathe without judgment.
How do you breathe?
We all breathe automatically and have the inherent knowledge of what it means to “breathe deeply” and how distressing it can be to be out of breath. For a true answer to yourself, it is suggested that you try the breathing observation exercise:
- You can do it sitting or lying down, depending on the location and conditions that are favourable to you. The important thing is that you feel comfortable on whichever you choose.
- Place one hand on your belly button and the other hand on your chest.
- Breathe naturally through your nose.
Once your breathing is stable and natural you should ask yourself, with curiosity and without judgment:
“Is the breath short or long? Is inhalation different from exhalation?”
“Is the breath shallow, intermediate or deep?”
“Where do you feel your breath? In the belly, or higher in the chest?”
“How does the body feel when it breathes?”
The truth is, you don’t need to look for an obvious mental answer. The most important thing is for you to notice how the body feels about these issues.
Despite being constantly confused with the act of breathing, Pranayama is a set of breathing techniques designed to help the Yoga practitioner to dominate and manage the body’s energy. The Sanskrit word Pranayama means “expansion of the life force”, with “prana” being the vital energy that exists around us and “ayama” meaning expansion. For the practitioner, breathing appears as an extension of prana as it moves through the body. Pranayama is the balance of energy inside and outside the body. As such, a greater awareness of breathing provides quality for the practice of postures (asanas).
As a rule, the body accumulates physical tensions and dysfunctional emotional beliefs that prevent outside energy from entering. Breathing techniques help to release these limitations and calm the nervous system. It is for this reason that after a Yoga class, we can experience the feeling that something has changed.
The first step is taken from the moment we feel that there must be a change in us, although sometimes it is in the most basic of our being: breathing itself. When we breathe in, we receive life from the entire Universe that surrounds us, but always remember that when we breathe out we also share something of our own with others. Those who learn to live in this harmony open doors to consciousness.