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Why is breath so important?

Please note: there is a breath exercise included in this little write up below.

Well this is ironic.

WHILE I am preparing for a workshop all about breathing, I am suffering from allergies at the moment, unable to breathe through my nose. Sure hope I can BREATHE before it begins. Ha, ha!

Funny how life brings you opportunities to learn things “from the horses mouth”, so to speak. First-hand experience is always the best, especially when it pertains to yoga.

That’s not to say that I ENJOY gasping for air through my mouth in between bites of food or trying to speak. But one must look at these things through a lens of curiosity and what can be learned from each new life experience.

So here I am, brain fog and all, trying to string two thoughts together on a page.

The breath is such a fascinating topic for me. Ever since learning about the power of the breath and pranayama techniques in India, it has become clear that it is THE BREATH that is so key to transformation, even more so than the postures of yoga.

Being deprived of proper breath, really has me thinking deeply about how important the breath is, yet we do it every day, often without giving it a second thought.

Only if our breath is compromised in some way do we become acutely aware of the gift each breath is.

Pranayama, is the Sanskrit word that means control of the breath and life force. In yoga, it is believed that by harnessing the breath, being able to slow it and control it, we can affect great change in our well being, our moods, our minds and our evolution.

The breath is the bridge between our minds and bodies. How we are breathing can give us valuable feedback and information about how we are feeling, mentally and physically.

Developing awareness of the breath and the ability to manipulate it safely and comfortably, means that we can effectively control our thoughts and emotions.

When we are fearful, we can quell that, when we are having trouble sleeping, we can help ourselves fall sweetly asleep, when we are feeling sluggish and down, we can energize and self heal.

The various breathing techniques that are taught in yoga have an affect not only on our physiology, but on our energetic, mental and emotional bodies as well.

These were all techniques that were discovered by the yogi “scientists” in the forests of India centuries ago where they went to live in solitude to experiment and make observations.

One of the things that they observed was that our left nostril is connected to our right brain, our yin nature. When we breathe through our left nostril, it stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, our relaxation response, and allows us to feel calm and facilitates sleep. When we breathe through our right nostril it is stimulating, it creates heat, it enhances digestive fire and makes us feel more alert.

You can do this little experiment yourself and see what you notice:

Try closing your right nostril by placing a thumb on the outside of your right nostril, breathe through your left nostril, slow and steady in a rhythm that is comfortable to you, for 10 to 20 rounds (one round is composed of an inhale and an exhale). Observe and notice any changes in feeling or brain activity while you are breathing and also for the few moments after your release the technique.

Take a moment to notice.

Then repeat on the other side and notice. You may not notice anything at first, and that is ok. You may notice increase activity or sensation and feeling in the right side of the brain when you breathe through the left nostril, and the left side of the brain when you breathe through the right nostril, or you may not.

You may notice breathing through the left nostril produces a very calm, centered, relaxed feeling afterwards and breathing through the right produces a more uplifting, energizing, active energy, more alertness.

I am always of the philosophy of “try it yourself and see what happens”. Don’t take my word for it.

BE the scientist yourself and observe the effects.

Yoga is all play. We are just here to experiment and try things and notice what makes us feel better, what doesn’t. Maybe we begin to gravitate more towards that which makes us feel better, maybe we don’t.

Maybe we play on the edge sometimes: one foot on the grass, one foot on the concrete, which feels better? Maybe we jump back and forth, just to keep things interesting.

Me? I’ll be over here doing neti pot and back bends to clear my head for our breath workshop.

If you want to know more about the workshop: "Breathe." on June 23rd. GO HERE

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