In 1974 Barry White wrote and performed the hit disco song “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything”. At first glance love is the suggestion. Dive deeper and the title provides us with a perfect description of breath. Our breath is the holder of life.
In yoga manifesting breath as a tool offers us a golden opportunity to go deeper within and to befriend the unity of mind, body and inner spirit. Our breathing body serves as the mechanical conduit capturing the invisible to create and nourish life force, or Prana. As we control the inhalation and exhalation, we engage yama.
Communicating with our true self through the melodious rhythms of controlled breath, Pranayama weaves the body and mind into a continuum of heightened awareness and sensory experience. The breath adapts, flexes, builds, and releases. Its purpose in yoga is to achieve a sense of wholeness and an outcome such as silence, healing, openness, warmth, coolness, calmness, energy and possibly the ‘aha’ moment.
Consider the varied approaches to Pranayama that the yoga practitioner can touch on during the journey. Perhaps the focus is on the length of the breath – either through a balanced breath where equal time is devoted to the inhale and exhale – or the path may enter the more grounding version of breath where a longer exhale (compared to inhale) facilitates deep release of tension, judgement and conflict.
Or the student may choose to visualize how breath is expanding in the abdomen and rib cage – offering limitless space for third chakra energies’ golden glow. Maybe the vision of breath flows from one hemisphere of the brain to the other through alternate nostril breath; linking the artistic side to the practical side, enhancing balance within.
Benefit may be received from the practice of seeking internal expansion of an area that’s reflecting restriction – asking the question – what needs to be released or forgiven? Breath might start from the base of a pose – inviting earth energy to fill legs, belly and heart in Tadasana then sweetly surrendering breath back to the earth from a state of continual gratitude. Standing poses intuitively offer space to inflate your shape as you mimic flying gracefully over the planet in Dancer or saluting the heavens through Warrior I.
At the end of practice, the act of releasing conscious control over breath carries with it a sense of trust – trust that breath is available as needed, nourishing our internal experience.
Written by Vickie Dunn, RYT-500, C-IAYT in conjunction with Julie Trone, RYT-500