Breath: The Essence of Life & the Foundation of Yoga

30 Mar

By Nikki Starr

Yoga is the union between the body and the mind, connected through the breath. Breathing is the most fundamental technique of Yoga. It is the essence of life. Without breath, neither exists. The first thing we do when we enter into this planet is to take our first independent breath. The last thing we do when we leave our physical bodies is to exhale out our entire existence in that one final breath. Deepak Chopra explains that:

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“You inhale for the first time shortly after your umbilical cord is cut. From that moment on you take approximately seventeen thousand breaths each day, which over a lifetime totals about 500 million breaths. In your final moments on this planet, you exhale for the last time; that breath defines the end of your life. Your breathing supports every experience you have from the time of your first inhalation to that of your last exhalation. Breath is life” (Chopra, Deepak The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga: A Practical Guide to Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit, 99).

Think about it, approximately seventeen thousand breaths each day!! Incredible! Accordingly, it is appropriate and fundamental that each of our yoga classes begins with Pranayama Deep Breathing and ends with Kapalabhati Breathing.  Pranayama warms up the body from the inside out. It is good for the lungs and the respiratory system. Additionally, Pranayama exercises our nervous and circulatory systems. It is relaxing and grounding. Pranayama roots us in our practice, in our bodies.  Kapalabhati in Vajrasana (Blowing in Firm Pose) is detoxifying and energizing. It is good for the abdominal muscles and internal organs because it improves oxygenation of the body and increases circulation. Kapalabhati is good for the heart, high blood pressure, and respiration.

Breathing connects our minds to our bodies. It is the only autonomic function that we have conscious control over. While we hold our breath in our consciousness, we have the power to change it, to regulate it; thereby, regulating our bodies. Our involuntary nervous system functions resume control when we surrender the conscious control of our breath. The reality that we have the ability to control part of our autonomic nervous system is empowering. Because we can consciously choose to put our attention on our breath, we have the ability to give ourselves widespread health benefits, which is beautiful. We are so lucky! Through conscious breathing, we can relax our bodies and our minds. Additionally, alleviating high blood pressure, irritability, and insomnia. We can detoxify and revitalize our whole body! This humble piece is but a small acknowledgement and reminder that Conscious Breathings is, in line with Chopra, the “key to a healthy, vibrant life” (100).

We each hold our own key! We have the power to unlock our own health, happiness, and vitality. Exhale out what does not serve you and live the life you Love!

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