Yogic philosophy teaches us that all of our actions – physical, mental and emotional – interact to make us who we are. We need oxygen to survive, but the way we breathe has far greater impact on our health than we realize. In turn, the state of our physical bodies determines the quality of our breath.
Patanjali discusses this theory in the “Yoga Sutra,” and Hatha Yoga takes the concept a step further by saying that our breathing affects the shape of our spines. Generally, exhalations (rechaka) evoke a state of relaxation while inhalations (puraka) create feelings of tension.
There are three categories of breaths: abdominal breathing using the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm, middle breathing expanding the lower ribs, and high breathing resulting in shallow, quick breaths.
To simplify the relationship between Yoga asana and breathing, we can make the following assumptions:
1. We usually exhale when we bend forward.
2. We usually inhale when we bend backward.
3. We usually exhale when we do twists.
When we synchronize Yoga movement with our breathing, we focus more easily and become more aware of the sensations in our bodies. The pause between our breaths brings us back to the present moment and provides insight into our subconscious minds.
An interface of breath and action, Yoga training brings attention to our breathing, causing us to use a different part of our brain than we do at other times. The cerebral cortex, the portion of the brain that plays a role in our memories, thoughts, language, and consciousness, takes over.
When we are not aware of our breathing, the part of the brain that controls our autonomic nervous systems, takes charge of our breathing and other involuntary actions, blocking the flow of prana and making us tense and anxious.
Rhythmic breathing not only lowers blood pressure and heart rate, but it also helps to control physical movements and prevent injuries. Using specific Yogic breathing techniques, the breath can be used to prevent and heal disease, increase intuition and reduce anxiety.
A regular Yoga practice retrains our bodies to breath more efficiently, creating emotional, physical and spiritual benefits
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