In all meditation and yoga classes, you keep on hearing it, calm down your breath, mind your breathing, and more. But why is this so important and most of all, why does it help? Let’s find out!
Breath in Yoga Philosophy
Let’s start to have a look at some philosophy. Within the Hindu and Yogic tradition, it’s been said by the gods that we were all born with a certain amount of breaths. To live a long life, we have to control our breathing, make it slow and steady, to make sure we don’t waste any of it.
It’s a great little story, but what does it mean? For that, we have to take a look at some science to make sure that we understand what it’s all about.
The Physical Part of Breathing
So, first of all, breathing is something vital to us. If we stop breathing, well, then it’s over. This means that this function of our body is unmissable and of utter importance.
There are a couple of functions. First of all, breathing makes sure that our body and its organs are provided with oxygen. Which then serves as fuel for those. And secondly, our breath releases toxins as well.
You can compare it a bit to a car. You put in gas in the car (fuel), which makes that the engine works. The engine uses the fuel converts it into CO2 and releases it then again. Do you see the similarities? We breathe in oxygen, the cells in our body use it and after that, we exhale that waste back into the air in the form of carbon dioxide.
There are a couple of other things in there as well, but you get my point ;).
Controlling The Breath
But why is it now so important that we learn to control the breath through yoga and meditation? Well, you’ve been angry, am I right? And have you ever noticed how your breathing was during that episode of anger?
That’s it, you probably noticed that while you are being emotional, will it be anger or sadness or even extreme joy, you will breath faster. Which is not per se a bad thing as your physiology has been made this way for something. However, when it’s very extreme, like when with an anxiety disorder or when you are under a lot of stress, it’s not helping your body anymore.
We must have a kind of control over our respiratory system as continuous stress isn’t good for your body and its immune system.
It works a bit like this: We start breathing heavily, which sends a signal to our brain that something is going on. Our brain will think that we’re in distress and sends signals to all the organs that they’ll be getting more supply and that they’ll have to work harder.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
So, the heart pumps faster, blood runs more rapidly through our veins as well and we are ready for attack. But hold on, is it really necessary that we are in attack mode? It used to be when we were cavemen? But how about now? Of course, we still need this reaction to keep us sharp for when there is a real kind of distress, but in most situations, we don’t need it anymore.
This is another reason why it’s good to take some control back over your breathing. Remember the car and the limited amounts of breaths you have? Of course, the latter is just a metaphor that you’ll run out of breaths sooner when you are experiencing more stress. Which is the same as the car. The more and intensive you use it, the faster it will decade as well.
This is what happens when your breath is fast and not so deep, so let’s have a look at what happens when you are breathing slowly, taking some deep breaths.
By controlling your breath, you’ll be telling your brain that everything is fine. There won’t be any adrenaline released, your heartbeat won’t rise, etc. Not only this but also for your state of mind this is helpful as you won’t be worried about the things going on in your body.
How To Control The Breath?
There are many exercises out there that will aid you in controlling your breath. Scroll down if you’d like to listen to a short breathing exercise that is based on yogic breathing. With this recording, you’ll learn how to breathe fully and completely. It’s about filling up your lungs and use its entire capacity.
Of course, there are other great exercises as well that you can easily do yourself. The one up here is basically when you have been under a lot of stress and you’d like to give your body and brain a little rest. You can also use some other Pranayama techniques, which you’ll be able to find here.
Another easy exercise is to just sit down on a chair, close your eyes, and breathe through the belly. These days a lot of people have forgotten how to properly breathe. And because of the stress that we’re experiencing in us, we often breathe through our upper lungs. This means that we only use between 30-60% of our lung capacity. We can do better, don’t you think?
Information for Yoga Teachers
I also like to add for all the yoga teachers out there that meditations focused on breathing aren’t that easy to guide when you are in the studio. There isn’t a perfect way to teach breathing.
Everybody has his rhythm and this makes it hard to sync yourself with all of your students. Therefore, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t transmit this in the beginning. Just make sure for yourself that your breathing is correct. This makes that you’ll tune in with your students by joining them with the exercise.
If you’d like to have the hand-out of the yogic breath, you can always send an e-mail to email@example.com and I’ll be happy to pass it on to you. Of course, the hand-out is only the short version as I’m also just going with the flow while recording my meditations.
Let’s take a breath now while we finish off this article. I hope you enjoyed it and that you’ve realized how important the breath is to go into deep relaxation. Make sure that you try out the exercise of the yogic breath and if not, you can also watch some other videos on the Pranayama post where I talked about all the different forms and exercises of breathing to heal yourself.
All that rests for me to say is: