Just Breathe

Lately I have been exploring breath. In yoga, we call breath prana. Prana may be translated as life force, energy, or spirit.  Do you see why it is vital? Breath is life.

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Breath has always been a significant part of my yoga practice. It is one of the 8 limbs of the path of yoga. Recently, I have had the good fortune to shine a more concentrated light on it. Once a week, I have the privilege of attending a yoga teacher’s class where lately, we have been investigating breath.

Another event has precipitated this focus on breathing. I have emerged from a recent health challenge where breath served as my anchor. Without mindful focus on my breath, I am certain I would have slipped into anxiety, an old, familiar pattern.

I just finished a book on breath and found it to be helpful and inspiring.  It is called, “The Yoga of Breath, A Step-By-Step Guide to Pranayama” by Richard Rosen. The author provides a comprehensive yogic view of the breath, including specific breath practices.   I recommend it.  Books are great for acquiring background knowledge but diving in and actually experiencing breath for our selves can be profound.

So I throw this out - take up the challenge of becoming more aware of your breathing. This is the first step to what could be an ongoing project.

Here are some practical ideas for cultivating simple awareness of breath:

  • Create space to formally notice and be with your breath first thing in the morning.
  • Bring your attention to your breathing before you drift off to sleep at night.
  • Consciously yoke your attention to your breath in a yoga class – make breath a priority.
  • Connect to and observe your breathing at specific points in your day: while walking the dog, standing in line, preparing dinner, while you are having a disagreement.  Ask yourself, what is the effect, if any, of observing my breath?

Consider using breath as a means of self-inquiry. When we explore how we breathe, we begin to learn something about who we are. Richard Rosen writes that, “Breath and consciousness are really two sides of the same coin”. 

Importantly, can you notice your breathing without judgment? Notice with curiosity and kindness.  Below are some breath inquiries.  Perhaps choose one to investigate while you are out and about walking, or maybe you focus on one or two queries in a formal pranayama practice.  You can sit in a chair, on the floor, or you may be more comfortable reclining on the ground.  Comfort is key.

  •      Where do you feel breath in your body?
  •      What is the pace of your breath?
  •       Is your breathing deep or shallow?
  •       What is the texture of your breath?
  •       Can you discover pauses in your breath cycle – can you rest in the pause?
  •       What does my breath say about me right now in this moment?

Go ahead; make friends with your breath anywhere, anytime. No one has to know what you are doing. Take note of how your breath serves you. Celebrate your life force.