Are You Connected to Your Breath?
I recently started teaching a weekly yoga class at my office. At the beginning of each class, I always start with the same direction to all my yogis, “Let’s all connect with our breath.” The first step in practicing yoga is to connect your movements to your breath, but before you can do that, you need to be conscious of your breathing. In order to synchronize your inhales and exhales to your movements, you first need to consciously breathe, in and out. Without that consciousness in breathing, you’re not practicing yoga; you’re just bending and stretching.
Yoga is a way of life. The impact of my yoga practice extends far beyond my yoga mat. Once I gained a basic level of consciousness in my breath in yoga class, I began to carry that with me everywhere I go. I’ve gotten to the point where a deep breath is all I need to ground myself in any new environment or situation. Any challenge that I face, deep, concentrated breathing is my strongest ally. I recently got my first tattoo. Throughout the one and a half hour session, I sat like a statue, breathing slowly and deeply the whole time, easing the pain of the needle digging into my back. Every time I find myself unable to focus, distracted or frustrated with whatever task is in front of me, a deep breath grounds me, brings clarity to my focus, and relaxes my mind.
This morning, I got up at 6am for yoga practice before work. For the past few weeks or so, I’ve been feeling pretty depressed. A diabolical combination of the holiday season, acclimating to a new city, and trials and tribulations in my love life had me walking around in a funk. I had been concentrating on leaving all my frustration and pain behind me, detaching from it, and moving forward to embrace the positivity and love that lies in front of me. Easier said than done.
I was contemplating all of this during savasana or corpse pose at the end of yoga class this morning. The instructor was bringing the class to an end and instructed us to take in a deep inhalation and hold it. It was at that moment when I filled my lungs with prana and my chest expanded, that I felt all that pain and sadness bubble inside me. I felt it in my abdomen like a lumpy ball. Then I exhaled, forcefully and completely, emptying my lungs and purging myself of all that negativity and sadness inside of me. I felt empty, cleansed and pure, ready to breathe in a fresh breath of life, grounding me in the present, unencumbered by any pain or scars from my past. I took in a deep, clean, new breath of life, and I’ve felt amazing ever since.
Your breath is your connection to life. Being conscious and mindful of your breath is being conscious and mindful of your life. Breathing is the path to an expanded consciousness. In Ayurveda, it’s called prana. In Chinese medicine, it’s called chi. Whatever you want to call it, it’s essential to life. Harnessing the power of your breath is harnessing the power of your life force. Imagine what you’re capable of once you’re in control of something so powerful.
Are you connected to your breath? You don’t have to be practicing yoga to elevate your consciousness using your breath. All you need is working lungs and an open mind. Watch this video for a simple exercise to find your breath.
Radiance Sutra # 2
The life essence carries on its play
Through the pulsing rhythm
Of outward and inward movement.
This is the ceaseless throb, the rhythm of life —
Terrifying in its entirety, exquisite in its constancy.
The inhalation, the return of movement of breath,
The outgoing breath
These are the two poles
Between which respiration goes on unceasingly.
Between them is every delight you could desire.
Even when the senses are turned outward,
Your attention on the external world,
Attend also to the inner throb,
The pulsing of the creative impulses within you.