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The importance of the breath

Healthy lungs

Breathing. In, out, in, out.

It’s something we don’t think much about on a day to day level as our body is on autopilot to perform this vital function and provide oxygen to our lungs and expel carbon dioxide. It is something which we take for granted ... unless we are out of breath and then we suddenly become aware of it.

The breath and Yoga

The role of breath is very important in Yoga practice and we are often told in class to focus on the breath and be aware of the breath in and the breath out during certain parts of Asanas or yoga postures. But why is breathing such a vital element of our practice?

Prana and Apana

In yoga we consider the breath as a part of ‘Prana’ or vital force. ‘Prana’ is active when you breathe in and ‘Apana’ is active when you breathe out. Yoga practice helps to balance these two aspects of breathing.

When you think about it, we often use breathing in everyday life to overcome problems. Before giving a speech or presentation we may take a deep breath to help gather confidence (Prana). Likewise, we are likely to ‘breathe a sigh of relief’ when it’s over which expels all the built up stress in our body (Apana). A yoga class can help release stress we didn’t even know was building up from simply encouraging deep conscious breathing and long audible sighs.

Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire is a rapid and rhythmic breath with equal emphasis on the inhale and exhale, no deeper than sniffing. This technique is used in Kundalini yoga and is said to release toxins in the lungs, expand lung capacity and increase strength. It is also said to be power up the nervous system enabling the body to resist stress. It’s performed by pumping the naval point towards the spine on the exhale and releasing the naval out on the inhale.

We practice Breath of fire, breathing through the nose with the eyes and mouth closed. Although it might be hard to master at first, it is an amazing part of practice and practicing it for just a few minutes can energise the body and calm the mind.

Balance and control

Of course, our body requires different types of breathing depending on our actions. When we exercise we need more oxygen and so have to breath more rapidly; When we relax our breathing becomes slower and deeper. Concentrating on the breath while making movements helps us control movements, create greater balance and then the muscles can work more effectively. This also helps to prevent injury to the body.

The benefits

There is so many benefits from being more mindful about our breath and not just taking it for granted. When we trust in our breath and observe it we can begin to be more aware of our mental state and use the breath to settle negative thoughts. Breathing is life and becoming more in tune with our breath takes us back to our heart centre. Back to a place of rest, comfort and just ‘being’ you.

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