Our breath is constant. The awareness of our breath, however, is often lacking. Our vibrancy increases when we breathe consciously and deeply. During a yoga practice students are encouraged to connect to their breath by breathing more intentionally. There are specific breathing practices, called pranayama. There are different pranayama practices available; they offer a unique bodily/mental response. With each pranayama exercise we concentrate our attention and become mindful of the breathing process itself. This in turn assists our minds in letting go of the constant “noise”, quieting the mind – finding a silent space, that is beneficial for the nervous system.
Here are a few practical examples:
- You might recall a friend encouraging you to take a deep breath during a stressful situation.
- Breath control is exercised during labour, which helps deal with extreme pain.
- Athletes use breath to reach further, jump higher, lift heavier, and run further.
- Singers use breath to project and control their voice.
- Public speakers use their ability to control breath in presenting speeches and debates.
- A brain that is oxygenated functions at a higher capacity.
- The actual tissues of the lungs are healthier with deeper breaths.
- Our digestion is directly affected by the level of oxygen in our system.
- Our breath is like fuel to our system, we cannot live without it for more than some minutes.
Common breath practices are Ujjayi breath, also known as the Ocean breath, Three part breath, also known as a complete yogic breath and Kapalabhati Breath, referred to as the Bellows breath.
It is astounding that we commonly don’t know that we are breathing – it happens automatically and without our awareness. Not being aware of your breath is actually a positive thing – when our body functions properly, the body processes are painless. If breathing is painful, something might be wrong with your respiratory system.
The greatest gift of the breath is that we can use it to shift from unconsciousness to conscious AWARENESS. It happens when you begin noticing your breath. It happens instantly and effortlessly. Take a moment to recognize your next breath, and the one following. Do you feel its expansion in your body? Does it reach into your chest? Your belly? What about the back of your body? Take a few minutes to observe the soft expansion and contraction with each round of your breath. Now close your eyes and experience your breath. Observe its length, its fluidity, its depth, its coolness upon entering the nostrils and its warmth upon leaving the nostrils. As you open your eyes, be aware that the “noise of the mind” gave way, and find yourself calm and relaxed.
Here are several other benefits that occur from increased levels of oxygen in our body:
- Increases level of oxygen to your brain
- Improves digestion/elimination functioning
- Benefits cardiovascular system
- Decreases pulse rate
- Boosts immune system
- Improves circulation in the extremities (Hands and feet)
- Improves respiratory system efficiency
- Supports the endocrine system (glands)
- Clears mental space
- Supports your nervous system
- Manages Pain
- Improves endurance and stamina
This list is by no means exhaustive; there is much research being done in relation to the benefits of the increased oxygen in the body.
When your day becomes stressful, or fast, or upsetting, or unsettling – try taking ten long breaths, each one slower than the one before. Allow your eyes to close softly, relax the musculature of your face. Let the breath do its magic. 10 breaths do not take long. Yet the shift in your stress level may be profound. Let your mind find that calm peaceful place. Better breathing can increase and enhance the quality of your life.