Updated: Aug 31, 2020
In the West, breathwork is considered to be a simple breathing exercise.
However, in the East, it is considered something more.
It is the vital life force which animates and transforms mere matter into universal intelligence.
This vital force is imbued into our being at the moment of conception and is sustained by nutrients and oxygen while we are in our mother's womb. But from the moment we are born, we need to replenish this from the outside world.
Nature provides this in many forms; from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, from the sunlight and the from love we share with others.
In the East, the Rishis (the Vedic term for a saint or enlightened person) knew that the breath reflected the mind.
When one feels anxious, the breath is rapid and erratic.
The usual background chatter of our conditioned and programmed mind runs constantly with stories, fears, beliefs and judgements. Influencing the way we perceive ourselves, the world and others.
When one feels calm and emotionally steady, the breath slows down and lengthens, allowing the mind to become clear and calm.
As our physiology and nervous system become more regulated, we experience a greater sense of balance and self-control.
The Sanskrit word for breath control is Pranayama.
Prana is Life force and Yama means Control.
Yama is not only about the calming of the mind and body.
"The breath of fire" can be used to stimulate or elevate energy levels, which offers heat and courage into the solar plexus, delivering vital energy into mind and body.
Alternate nostril breathing can also be used in order to balance the energies of the two main energy channels (nadis) which run alongside the spinal column.
Yama is also used to direct the breath with intention, to a particular organ or part of the body for energy and healing.
The Rishis main intention of practising Yama, is to draw out the breath to the point of stopping the breath, in order to become totally still. When breath and mind are still, consciousness expands and psychological and spiritual transformation can occur.
Between 500 BCE and 200 BCE, Patanjailis, who is considered to be the Father of Yoga, compiled his 196 collections of Sanskrit Sutras on the Theory and Practice of Yoga, referring to "Yoga chitta vritti nirodhah". translated as, "Yoga is the resolution of the agitation of the mind."
Breathwork involves so much more than simple breathing exercises. It is an opportunity to control our thoughts and emotions and offers the portal to go within and discover the Self.
Pranayama is not an activity to rush or do with force.
It is a slow and gentle process which unfolds with practice and awareness.
Om Namaha Shivaya
Written by Liz Linde