Within our breath lies the fundamental essence of yoga. Without the sustenance of breath our human selves would not even be alive to experience the vital life force, the pranic essence of yoga. Without breath we lose the connection to that universal life force energy, the joining with which brings us into a state of yoga.
But how many times a day do we find ourselves lessening, stalling and even holding the breath? We get busy with the never-ending list of to-do’s and all the details of our day-to-day existence. Our attention constantly goes out of ourselves. We feel rushed and stressed. We forget to breathe!
Try this. Take a moment just to notice the immediate quality of your breath. Is it shallow or deep, quick or slow? Is it sporadic or steady, incomplete or full? Just notice at first. Watch the breath coming and going. You may begin to feel the sensation of your breath against your nostrils–cool as it comes in, warm as it moves out. You may begin allowing the breath to slow down.
As you continue to consciously breathe, you may try allowing the breath to drop down to the belly. Imagine you are filling a balloon in the belly with breath. Try this several times. Next allow the breath to widen the rib cage. You might imagine you are playing an accordion by allowing the breath to move the ribs in and out, sideways. Try this many times. Now allow the breath to warm the upper regions of your lungs where the heart center lives. You may feel the breath move front to back as if you had doors opening to the front side of your heart and doors opening from the back side of your heart. Let the winds of your breath move freely in and out of the doors to your heart.
Now try moving the breath like a rhythmic breeze slowly, smoothly, in and out. Feel the expansive quality of your breathing as you fill the belly and rib cage as well as the upper lungs. Hear the sound your breath makes. Feel a vital life force, the pranic essence, filling you over and over. And when you empty the breath, let it empty all the way from the belly, rib cage, and upper lungs. You might allow tensions and mental debris to flow out on the exhalation. Or you might choose to send a beautiful force back out of yourself through your breath.
As you move forward from here, try carrying this quality of breath with you. Make a decision that you will honor your breath throughout the day. And from here on, when you catch yourself tensing, stalling, holding the breath, give yourself just a few moments to repeat the above exercise. You may need to practice with the written instructions many times at first. You are training yourself to breathe the full yogic breath. But like many things, with consistent practice you will eventually just know how to do this. You won’t need instruction. Only awareness. Then, as often as you like, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be able to let your devoted awareness bring you back to the beauty of your breath.
This article was originally posted by Mandi Ashbrook in 2010