My personal wake up call to the power of my breath came when I finally had the courage to give up smoking around 15 years ago. I remember my cynicism as I sat in a chair while a pranic healer encouraged me to relax. I closed my eyes thinking what a futile, ridiculous waste of time it was to be believing that some kind of energetic healing hocus pocus could help with a full blown addiction that had ensnared me for decades…
And then as I exhaled, I saw the most extraordinary sight. I saw radiant white wings nestled over my heart. As I inhaled in surprise, the wings unfolded themselves majestically to extend at least nine feet either side of my body. As I exhaled they gently and slowly draped themselves back over my heart. I was stunned to see the layers of textured soft feathers in such detail and to witness them fold and unfold in such perfect rhythm with my breath.
I realized then, and have been realizing ever since in my yogic practise, that spirit is carried on the breath. That’s our portal into our connection with the universal, divine, god, goddess, inner wisdom, whatever you want to call it.
I didn’t know it at the time but the ancient yogis call this ‘prana’ or life-force, and explain that this prana is carried on the breath but is not breath. We can access, tap into and increase this pranic life force through practicing some pranyamas or breathing techniques that have been transmitted over the millennia by people who’ve dedicated their lives to understanding how we can connect to our spirits as humans.
There’s some pretty impressive physical and mental health benefits to practicing these breathing techniques too. Dr Andrew Weil, bestselling author of ‘Spontaneous Healing’ calls breathing ‘the master function of the body, affecting all others’ and notes that the rhythm and depth of our breath ‘influences the nervous system, the heart rate, blood pressure, circulation and digestion‘. Other benefits include:
- Increased energy levels – everything we do requires energy regulation, either to move and act or to relax. According to the authors of ‘Breathwalk: Breathing your way to a revitalised body, mind and spirit’ breathing is one of the most effective energy generators there is.
- Mood control – breathing techniques can help us shift upset emotional states such as anxiety, depressed, distracted and lethargic to moods we feel calm, connected, clear and motivated.
- Positive, focused mind – through using pranayamas, breathing patterns, we can conscious train our minds to be good servants as opposed to subconscious masters repeating old, unhelpful programming. See ‘The Mind: It’s projections and multiple facets‘ by Yogi Bhajan for more info.
- Feeling of connectedness – when under pressure and stress, we tend to withdraw from others but research shows that social connection and support is key to positive health. Breathing consciously expands the body, brings vitality to the senses and frees feelings so we can move on, communicate and connect.
Please check the other blogs for how to engage in specific pranayamas and do leave a comment about your experience of connecting to your breath…