Sunday, 17 July 2011


When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still." - Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Breathing is the process that moves air in and out of the lungs. Breathing is life. It is one of our most vital functions. Without food, we would die in a few weeks, without water, in a few days, but without air, we would die within a few minutes. Also, breathing is one of the few bodily functions which, within limits, can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously. Pranayama is the science of yogic breathing exercise which promotes proper breathing. In a Yogic point of view, breathing is not only to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, but to increase and control Prana or the vital life energy. Prana, or life force is a concept of the Hindu religious tradition, but a spiritual meaning to breath can be found frequently in other religious context too: Throughout the books of the Bible, the Spirit is experienced as the Breath of God, revealing God to the world and giving life, not only to humans, but also to the whole of creation. The very first verse of the Bible speaks of the Spirit as a mighty wind which moves over the face of the deep, drawing aside the veils of darkness to allow the beautiful earth to emerge (Gen 1:1).In the second chapter of Genesis, God breathes the breath of life into humans and animals. Elsewhere in the Bible, when God takes back the breath, life disappears: 'When you take away their breath they die and return to the dust' (Ps. 104:29).

The cultivation of breath, as we do in Yoga, has many health benefits too,

 It helps sufferers of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and emphysema to overcome the fear of shortness of breath.

 It actually increases lung capacity.

 Dramatically reduces emotional and nervous anxiety

 Improves detoxification through increased exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen

 Amplifies the auto immune system by increased distribution of energy to the endocrine system

 Calms the mind and integrates the mental / physical balance.

So let’s try to picture the breath as a continuous wave like pattern, The wave that connects us to life. It may take a few weeks of practice to perfect a smooth flowing pattern with minimum effort and with maximum capacity.”

Probably one of the easiest breathing exercises goes like this:

Lie down on your back in a comfortable, quiet spot, maybe the floor, maybe the bed... eyes closed. Put one hand onto your tummy, and let your breath flow, deep, full, but without force. Enjoy, relish, every refreshing, invigorating inhale, every relaxing, calming exhale. Feel how the air moves through the body, feel the gentle lifting and sinking in your hand. Notice, how easy it is to relax like this? Repeat as often as possible or necessary.

To finish, I would like to share my favourite poem of Kabir, thirteenth century mystic poet and saint of India:

 Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.

 My shoulder is against yours.
 you will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine
 rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
 not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding
 around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but

 When you really look for me, you will see me
 instantly --

 you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
 Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
 He is the breath inside the breath.

No comments: