It’s easy to be blindsided by the physical nature of life. Our physicality allows us to see, touch, examine and somewhat rationalize existence.
Through this rationalization, we know we are made of flesh and bone, and that blood flows through our veins, capillaries, and arteries. We breathe to circulate blood and supply oxygen to fuel our billions of cells. We can go days, weeks without food or water, but won’t survive more than a minute without oxygen. Simply, without breath there is no life.
The air we breathe is a gift that brings the force of life known as Prana into the body. The yogis consider Prana to be the energy that resides in the heart of every atom and flows from all corners of the Universe to sustain life. Every living being is powered by this phenomenon.
The literal translation of Prana is “vital principle.” This vitality rides on our breath. It’s absorbed into our energy body and travels along the subtle energy pathways known as nadis, flowing like electric blood to fuel the functions of life. When we breathe consciously we expand and improve the quality of this vital life force within and around us. This is what yogic breathing techniques, or pranayama, are designed to enhance.
The importance of breathing is often overlooked in modern society. This has resulted in many of our common stress related ailments. Breathing patterns are easily disrupted by fatigue and prolonged stress which upset the balance of our physiological and psychological systems. Pranayama is a tool to remedy this. It seems the yogis were onto something thousands of years ago.
Since breathing is the only visceral function of the body that can be regulated voluntarily, it makes sense that pranayama is fundamental to yoga and meditation techniques. Yama means to control. Practice of voluntary breath control acts as an intermediary between the body, mind and spirit.
The yogic philosophy behind breath control is to develop the relationship between these cognitive states and refine respiratory movements for optimal breathing to enhance physiological and psychological functioning.
“You are alive because of the breath of life. Use the breath of life in a slow potency to heal you, your mind, and to brighten your soul. Breathe in slowly, consciously, hold it consciously, and let it go consciously and slowly. Get to that rhythm, control it yourself. It can heal all, because it’s the breath of life, which is the spirit in you, which is the soul in you, which is actually you, alive.”
Breath is the universal measure of life. A simple way to experience the power of breath control for yourself is through a technique known as The One Minute Breath. Sit in comfortable meditation posture. Take a few minutes to connect to your breath by consciously following the flow of each inhalation and exhalation through the nose. Slowly deepen into each breath. Then start inhaling for 10 seconds, holding for 10 seconds, exhaling for 10 seconds. Meditate like this for 11 minutes a day and gradually increase to 15, 15, 15, and finally to 20, 20, 20. Reclaim the power of Prana.