Yoga postures are usually the first thing a person does when beginning a yoga practice. A lot of time is spent on learning posture sequences; in Bikram yoga (hot yoga) there are many as 26 possible postures. However, an important and sometimes neglected side of the yoga experience is the art of breathing, called Pranayama. Discovered by Ancient Indian yogis, these are formal breathing exercises that clear the physical and emotional obstacles in our bodies, and allow our “prana” - the universal life source that runs through us and everything around us- to flow freely. They taught that breathing is our one constant in life, the first and last thing we do in our lives. Without it, there is no life. And by consistently practicing Pranayama, we can keep our bodies fully charged and healthy.
These yogis also discovered that our state of mind is affected by the quantity, quality and flow of our prana. When we don’t pay attention to this flow (and most of us don’t), our energy channels can get blocked and the flow of our prana becomes broken. This is where all the negatives come into our lives – fear, stress, worry. Did you know that illness actually first appears in our prana before it ever surfaces in a physical form? Reversely, when our prana level is flowing smoothly, then the mind is where it should be; in a calm and positive state.
Although we have been breathing since we came into the world, most of us forget how to breathe efficiently as we get older – and therefore need to re-learn it. The best example of proper breathing is looking at a new born baby breathe – their stomachs slowly rise and fall as they breathe in and out. They breathe from the abdomen. But most of adults breathe from the chest, and this shallow breathing sends a message to the brain that something is not right – it says we are stressed. But breathing from the abdomen boosts respiration, supplies a rich oxygen level to the brain and signals that all is ok.
Breathing well is a vital step towards not only survival, but also self-healing. Learning the right breathing techniques affects our body, and our mind by positively influencing our thoughts and actions. Not many of us know this, but each thought that we think alters the rhythm of our breath. When we are happy, our breathing is rhythmic, but when we are stressed and unhappy, our breathing gets interrupted. By practicing Pranayama, we can change the course of our thoughts and emotions by changing the pattern of our breathing.
Research has shown that the benefits of Pranayama are great; from reducing feelings of depression, anxiety and stress, stabilizing blood pressure, improving sleep to increasing energy levels and positivity. Breathing with awareness and control brings harmony between the body, mind and spirit and makes one physically, mentally and spiritually stronger.
1.)What is an important, often overlooked, part of the yoga experience?
- A. Silence
- B. Singing
- C. Postures
- D. Breathing, called Pranayama
- E. Flexibility
2.)Prana is described as:
- A. One of the 26 yoga postures
- B. The feeling of serenity one gets when doing yoga
- C. The universal life source that runs through us and everything around us
- D. A famous Italian fashion label
- E. Another name for our heart chakra
3.)Ancient Indian yogis discovered that our state of mind is affected by the flow of our prana.
- A. True
- B. False
4.)The best example of proper breathing is seen in:
- A. An elderly woman
- B. A puppy
- C. A teenager
- D. A yogi
- E. A newborn baby
5.)The regular practice of Pranayama can have the following benefits:
- A. Reduce anxiety and stress
- B. Stabilize blood pressure
- C. Increase energy levels
- D. Increase positivity
- E. All of the above