In yoga, we try to balance the flows of energy and awareness as we raise prana, or breath. Pranayama ("conscious breathing") creates this balance by linking the body with the mind. Pranayama is the inhale, the exhale, and the suspension of the inhale and exhale. Performed correctly and gradually is to be freed from all disease.
In essence, without the breath, yoga would be no different than our traditional Western forms of exercise. The breath is the tool that unites body with mind. When linking breath with movement, we gradually develop a relationship with the length, depth and pace of our inhale and exhale. This synchronicity creates balance. Now let’s see what this mind-body connectivity hoopla is really all about!
To deepen your yoga practice, try this 6-step process once a day for 30 days:
- Pick your favorite seated yoga posture. Secure yourself safely in the posture.
- Close your eyes and breath naturally for a moment. As you do so, acknowledge your slowing pulse, become aware of how still your mind and body are, and absorb your connection to your entire being
- Now, deepen your breath, inhaling the breath from your belly into your chest. Feel the strength of your life force.
- Exhale slowly and completely through your nostrils, being patient with your release
- Still holding this posture, breathe deeply for at least 90 seconds. Watch the heat build. This is how we detoxify and purify the body.
- Notice any sensations and discomfort that arise in the body. Notice the mental discomfort as the ego wants to escape from the posture. Every breath is a source of valuable information for you.
Pranayama is also a powerful tool for developing mindfulness and witness consciousness.
The average person has between 40,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.
(Take a moment to soak in thought #60,001.)
So what determines whether you’re having 40,000 or 60,000 thoughts?
You guessed it: the length, depth and pace of your breath.
The mind spends the majority of its time replaying memories of the past or projecting how events or moments in the future will unfold. These repetitive thought-cycles carry an emotional charge. Those that are negative and fear-based enslave us in negative habitual patterns of unconscious and subconscious behaviors.
And that kind of thinking certainly takes the fun out of life, doesn’t it?
In yoga, we call these Samskaras. As long as these particles containing these emotions, thoughts or desires are within, we will continue to be influenced by them at an unconscious level.
The past is our guide to healing. The breath is our tool for healing and transformation.
All we have is the present moment, which empowers conscious choice and transformation from the inside out.
So, maybe you’re not a yogi or yogini. Even so, a daily pranayama practice is one of the most valuable resources you have for your overall health and well-being. Conscious, mindful breathing allows you to organically raise energy levels in your body while activating the relaxation response, all designed to bring you maximum vitality.
Take five minutes for yourself every morning for a little mindful breathing and see how that elevates your workout, reduces stress, and helps you realign inside and out.
This is pranayama!
If you'd like to learn more, check out this free 30-minute Pranayama class (appropriate for all levels).
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