A write-up about breathing, the yogic practice of pranayama
Recommended book - Light on Pranayama by B.K.S Iyengar
The Definitive Guide to the Art of Breathing
Pranayama, the yogic art of breathing, leads to a control of the emotions which in turn brings stability, concentration and mental poise.
“We all breathe, but how many of us do so correctly, with attention? Bad posture, an ill-shaped or caved-in chest, obesity, emotional disorders, various lung troubles, smoking and uneven use of the respiratory muscles, lead to improper breathing, below one’s capacity. We are aware of the discomfort and disability which then arises. Many subtle changes take place in our body as a result of poor breathing and bad posture, leading to heavy breathing, inadequate pulmonary function and aggravation of heart disease. Pranayama can help to prevent these disorders and help to check or cure them, so that one can live fully and well. As light radiates from the disc of the sun, so air is spread through the lungs. Move the chest up and out. If the skin over the centre of the breastbone can move vertically up and down and it can expand from side to side circumferentially, it shows that the lungs are being filled to their maximum capacity.”
Page 36 - Light on Pranayama
Xxii - Preface Light on Pranayama
I first discovered the power of the breath several years ago, when I went to a pelvic floor physical therapist. My diaphragm was extremely distended from my birth experience and postpartum transition. My lack of knowledge of breathwork and the diaphragm/pelvic floor relationship, exacerbated pelvic and lower back pain and the stress response in my body. This was before I became a yoga teacher. I had an interest in yoga, but unaware of the depth of yoga, especially in breathing. You don't have to become a yoga teacher to improve your breathing. Small changes every day can help you notice, bring attention to, and slow down your breathing.
In yoga teacher training, one of our recommended books “Light on Pranayama”, The Definitive Guide to the Art of Breathing by B.K.S Iyengar introduced me to Mr. Iyengar’s legacy and the art of pranayama. Intrigued to read how he healed himself of many childhood illnesses from 1934 on, deepend my curiosity about this practice. Being primarily self-taught in his lifelong practices also became extremely relatable to my own path. My son, being asthmatic, lent to an immediate draw to the power of the breath, lungs, and the bodymind connection. This book is one you will revisit because of the depth and breadth Mr. Iyengar embodied in writing about asana, anatomy, technique and proper pranayama, to healing and equanimity.
In my own practice, I have found pranayam to help me connect to being mindful and to bring ease into my body. In it's psychosomatic nature, it explores the intimate relationship between the body and the mind being one and how breath control has a different physiological response than autonomic breathing. How invigorating that the word inspiration comes from respiration. Breathing is inspiring!
I will leave you with a reminder to take a long, slow, exhale, to soothe the nervous system and by sharing the first thing my yoga teacher taught us about breathing:
“The Universe Breathes Us”
It is important to note that in spite of how it feels when you inhale, you do not actually pull air into the body. On the contrary, air is pushed into the body by the atmospheric pressure (14.7 pounds per square inch, or 1.03 kg/cmz) that always surrounds you. This means that the actual force that gets air into the lungs is outside of the body. The energy expended in breathing produces a shape change that lowers the pressure in the chest cavity and permits the air to be pushed into the body by the weight of the planet's atmosphere. In other words, you create the space, and the universe fills it.
Book: Yoga anatomy 2nd edition by Leslie Kaminoff & Amy Matthews
How unbelievably incredible!
Check out a short video on a breathing practice you can easily do at home!