Breathing – how hard can it be, really? It’s something we do instinctively, everyday, even when we sleep. We do it without thinking. And that is perhaps where things get confused. Have you ever wondered why your yoga teacher provides so many breathing cues? Inhale, exhale, breathe through your nose, inhale through your right nostril while holding your left nostril closed – wait, what? When did breathing get so complicated?
Truth be told, breath is life. In his book Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar describes breath as “the hub round which the wheel of life revolves.” Literally, breath is life. You’ve probably heard the word pranayama in class or in conversation with a yogi when talking about breath. Pranayama is essentially breath control or exercise. By learning to regulate your breath, you can have more control over your thoughts, your emotions, and your practice. Your breath can help control your heartbeat, it can help calm your thoughts, it can help your focus. The simple act of focusing on your breath can help you appreciate life more. Try it – find a quiet space and sit or lie in a comfortable position. Place your hands on your belly and breathe deeply in through your nose. Feel your belly rise beneath your hands. Fill up your lungs with beautiful breath. And when you are full, exhale slowly through your nose, feeling your fingers touch as your belly contracts. Close your eyes and repeat for 5-10 cycles. How do you feel afterwards? Calmer, more awesome? As the holiday season begins and you feel yourself being pulled in several directions and trying to do it all, take a moment and focus on your breath.
Not too long ago, a fellow yogi asked me to join her for a class. She said, “Come, let’s breathe together.” Indeed, being in a room with other yogis and breathing together is in essence sharing your life force with one another. What could be more simple, more powerful? So the next time your yoga teacher invites you to breathe, to make your breath audible, smile and share your life force!