November 29, 2011

Does Breathing Really Matter?

Through out yoga practice we’re always talking about breath awareness, it becomes a bit of a drag. “Allow the breath to flow with the movement of the body and be aware of the sound of your breath”. I must admit as a yoga teacher I sometimes get tired of hearing the sound of my own voice. Interestingly enough I get excited about breath holders after all it adds to the rich tapestry of yoga (and life), wouldn’t it be boring if we all breathed with perfection and to be honest the majority of us don’t especially during crucial times of concentration and physical exertion. I spend a good part of my time working with addicts and It’s become a playful and well known part of class time that the only time we will allow ourselves to breathe is when the body cries out “Hello! I need some air, some life force, something to sustain me, please help”. So why is this? Do you ever catch yourself not breathing? or are you one of those perfect breathers? I know there’s many benefits to breath retention and that would be an article in itself, but in the long run you’re going to have to draw in some life force at some point before it’s to late.

So I’ve decided to have a look at a few different aspects of breath right here right now, however I’m not professing to have any answers, I’ll leave that job up to you, it’s only fair considering you’re the one who has to deal with your daily existence.

Breathing is the most important thing we have, pretty much everything else can wait” What do you think about that?

Technicalities and Serious Talk.

So did you know when you breathe you’re breathing around 15-25 times per minute without even really thinking about it. When you exercise your breathing rate goes up, again without really even thinking about it. Breathings natural and we tend to take our lungs for granted, we can’t even stop ourselves breathing if we tried. The lungs are pretty complex organs, (the body is so clever ) they take a gas that the body wants to get rid of (Carbon Dioxide) in exchange for a gas that the body can use (Oxygen). Ok, so if no matter how hard we try we can’t stop the breath then where is the lack of daily breath awareness coming from? the mind?

The flowery spiritual stuff.

NB: I’ve used the word breath instead of Prana just to keep it simple.

When we’re concentrated inside the mind we tend to forget about the bodily existence. The mind acts like a reservoir of energy and within that reservoir there are many streams. The sense organs act as streams of force, the breath is the propelling force which sends energy to the channels of sense. The mind the senses and the breath are all connected. So being aware the mind is a reservoir and the senses are the channels through which the water of the reservoir flows, the breath is the force that is needed for the water to flow through the channels. The breath is the propelling energy, if there is no life force the water wont flow and it remains stagnant.

All that seems fairly deep, however it basically boils down to this:

When we begin something new we tend to breath hold until we’ve mastered the task in hand. There is a chance that mastery will never occur nor good breathing return. Even many simple day to day tasks invite breath holding such as cooking, cleaning or even tying your shoe lace. Is it really breath holding that’s the problem or is it the excessive amount of breath holding that may occur through out the day that causes the problems? often there’s a simple answer to this and it’s called stress.

So here’s a task.

Firstly take a look at your lifestyle and give yourself at least one hour of your day to notice how often you hold your breath. Notice when you take on new tasks whether the mind takes over, concentration deepens and the breath subsides. Notice how you feel when you eventually bring your awareness back to breathing and if all else fails take a few yoga lessons or a course in breath awareness, it may save your life. But whatever you do don’t forget to enjoy and have fun, it makes life so much easier.

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