Yoga Heals Us- It’s all in the breath
There are many forms of Yoga practiced in the West today, however many are another form of exercise and miss the true intention that the ancient sages intended yoga to be. One of my teachers, Gary Kraftsow, stated that for people in the mid-day stage of life, 25-70 years of age, breath practice or “pranayama” is the most important practice for us. The word “Pranayama” means: Prana “life force energy” yama “ to extend”. To extend our life force energy.
A breath centric orientation to yoga practice is a way to introduce people to a true experience of yoga. By starting with the breath and intimately linking that to movement of the spine and the entire body, an individual can directly experience the mind/body connection. In classes that I teach and with private clients, we begin with the breath and gentle movement so that folks can connect with themselves in a way that feels gentle and healing. Many times I work with individuals with physical limitations and chronically uncomfortable conditions. By teaching and educating on breathing, the individual learns a way to access areas that are held in chronic tightness, while naturally decreasing discomfort.
A breath practice has many benefits including; influencing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to balance the body, managing stress, stimulating the immune response, increasing vitality, and promoting good sleep, while strengthening the respiratory system. In other words a very simple practice can truly change our health and the long-term outlook for our lives.
What follows is a basic relaxing breathing practice. Begin with several free flowing breaths in and out. For three breaths, inhale to a count of 5 and exhale to a count of 5. For three breaths, inhale to a count of 5, exhale to a count of 5, and after your exhale hold the breath out for a 3 count. For three breaths, inhale to a count of 5 and slow your exhale to a count of 8. For three breaths, inhale to a count of 5 and exhale to a count of 5. Take several more free flowing breaths while you close your eyes and appreciate your practice, feeling tensions melt away, muscle tightness ease and your heart rate slow. Relax.