The Healing Power of Breath
The Vedas tell us that life is defined not by the number of years a person is alive on the earth but by the number of breaths each soul is given for its journey. When we expend our ration of breaths, our journey ends. The ancients therefore advise us to slowly synchronize the rhythms of our breath with that of nature. Breath is an intrinsic aspect of prana, our principal life force, which controls the quality and longevity of our life. Prana is the breath of the soul and bridge between body and mind so conscious breathing practices can nourish our spirit and heal even our most grievous spiritual and emotional wounds.
The sages developed a science of breath, called pranayama which means “manifestation of ultimate cosmic energy.” Pranayama encompasses a variety of practices, all of them designed to reestablish the flow of breath in harmony with the rhythms of the universe. Through pranayama practices, we gradually reduce the constant barrage of intrusive thoughts and sensations that keep us from spiritual understanding and consciousness. Pranayama promotes the yoga principle of unification of the mind and cosmos gaining greater awareness of our oneness within and with the universe as a whole.
Pranayama is a wonderful way to extend the duration and quality of your life. If you have never practiced pranayama, your respiratory pattern probably consists of quick, shallow breaths beginning and ending in the chest. Shallow chest breathing is the hallmark of the body’s fight-or-flight stress response and does not allow us to take in enough oxygen to feed the lower lungs properly. Therefore the cardiovascular and other biological systems cannot operate efficiently.
We can correct this pranic deficiency through the practice of several simple breathing exercises, all of which are rooted in deep abdominal breathing. The most basic of these is diaphragmatic breathing while laying in shavasana or “corpse or tranquil posture” along with visualization to direct the breath.