Sitting With My Breath
The act of breathing is both a science and an art. Most of us pass through our day not giving this essential part of life a second thought. In Yoga, breathing practices are called Pranayama. Pranayama is composed of two Sanskrit words, “Prana”, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and “Ayāma”, to extend or draw out. So the translation of Pranayama is: “the extension of life force”.
Breathing is one of our automatic systems along with our digestive system and heartbeat. Now just because these are “automatic” doesn’t mean they should be ignored. We need to pay close attention to our breath because it has an effect on EVERY system in our bodies. We can feel our heart when the body is working. It starts to beat harder and the pulse will quicken. The heart can be controlled by the breath, slow your breathing to slow your heart rate. We use this technique in asana to recover from a posture that required an considerable amount of effort. Our digestion can also be controlled by the breath. Deep breathing encourages movement through the intestines. You can feel this assistance during an expanding belly breath like in the 3 part yoga breath technique or when practicing the kriya, Kapalabhati.
The kriya, Kapalabhati, is a cleansing technique using the breath to increase the fire of the digestion system as well as clear nasal passages and strengthen the core, diaphragm and lungs. I have been practicing this technique on and off for a couple of years but have had a regular almost daily practice since January. I have felt and seen the benefits and know it will be a practice that I will use for the rest of my life. It has improved my posture and I am able to sit on my knees for extended periods of time. Sitting in this position also prepares my knees for asana. This practice is almost always followed by a trip to the bathroom. Who needs morning coffee to get things moving when this kriya gives me the energy I need for day as well as speeds up my digestion.
Any Pranayama practice is best preformed on an empty stomach so first thing in the morning is ideal. Weather permitting I almost always take my practice outside when “Prana” or “lifeforce” is abundant. Pranayama also teaches concentration so again the morning is ideal before the responsibilities of the outside world can distract me. It sets my mental tone for the day so dedicating the first 15minutes of my morning to breathing in fresh, crisp, clean air can only be beneficial for my mind, body and soul. With a regular pranayama practice comes experience and with experience comes a deeper knowledge and understanding. I know that there will always be room for improvement but thats the beauty of any yoga practice whether it’s pranayama, asana, or meditaion. The only challenge is dedication so by making it apart of my morning routine Im know Im setting myself up for success. All I can do is try and try I will.