If you pay attention to health and wellness news at all you have heard over and over in the last few years that the mind and body are connected – and it all revolves around the microbiome in your gut. Healthy gut, healthy brain! This is absolutely true.
However, in the practice of yoga, the mind and body are connected by your breath—the focused concentration of applying breath to movement. This breath practice, or Pranayama—the 4th limb in Patanjali’s Eight-Limb Path of Yoga, is the key to moving distractions from the mind and placing peace and focus in their place.
Prana is our vital life force. It’s present in all of us. Many yogis believe that the length of one’s life is not determined by number of years, but number of breaths. The deeper you breathe, the longer you will live.
Pranayama is the act of controlling this flow of energy.
What can Pranayama do for us?
You can use your breath practice to calm and soothe your mind, to energize, and to heat or cool the body.
As long as you are in control of your breath, you are in control of your mind. In stressful situations your breath becomes short and shallow, the fight or flight response kicks in and your heart rate may speed up. Some people get sweaty or even nauseous.
By taking control of the breath, deliberately breathing in long deep breaths and breathing out at the same pace, you send signals to your brain that you are actually safe, calming your nervous system. Your heart rate will slow, your mind will focus and you can get back to properly addressing the situation at hand with a cool head and a steady hand.
The quality of our breath expresses our inner feelings. –TKV Desikachar
Pranayama and asana together are considered to be the highest form of purification for the mind and body.
Take a yoga class with the sole focus of matching breath to movement. Exhale, forward fold. Inhale, halfway lift. Exhale chaturanga. Inhale upward facing dog. Exhale downward facing dog. When you arrive at a pose that challenges you, deepen the breath and maintain your focus. Your breath will get you through it.
The next time you need to calm yourself, re-energize or get focused try one of these breathing techniques from Dr. Andrew Weil. You’ll be amazed at the instant (and free) effect!
Your breath is there for you. You can you practice Pranayama anytime, anywhere.
When you own your breath, no one can steal your peace.