After the year we’ve had we could all use a breath of fresh air.
As yogis, the breath becomes an intrinsic part of our practice. It is the thread that guides and leads us through asana and deeply into meditation, and helps us to focus our awareness upon the nuances of the present moment as it rises and falls. It is the breath that holds a mirror up to us and allows us to truly observe our internal state, and the condition of our body. As we learn to breathe we begin to become more aware of held patterns, memories and traumas that are not aligned with our true values and let go of that which no longer serves us. The breath is our best tool for a nourishing, healthy and happy life and when we learn to work with it we can experience the full vitality of our life force present and operating within our lives.
Physiologically speaking, there have been some links drawn between breath work practices and a higher percentage of homeostasis in the body. As we learn to breathe deeply we begin to gently stretch the soft tissue of the lungs – which can be effective in removing scar tissue from smoking, disease or respiratory viruses. Studies have shown that Yoga therapy/meditation and breath work can improve health and well-being by reducing stress in the body and mind, which in turn boosts the immune response and reduces inflammatory markers in the body.
Learning to breathe properly can be profoundly impactful in reducing the ability of alien invaders to take up residence in the body. Breathing deeply and diaphragmatically helps to oxygenate the bodies cells and fibres, encouraging healing, regeneration and producing a certain level of adrenaline that can be helpful in fighting off foreign bodies. Leading this particular style of practice in the breath work movement is Scandinavian Ice Man ‘Wim Hof’ who’s mission it is to see his particular practice of breath work spread globally to help relieve the symptoms of disease.
In short – breath work may be helpful in reducing the impact Covid 19 can have, or has left, on the mind and body by conditioning and toning the respiratory system to a higher level. This means learning to breathe properly could be an incredibly helpful tool in the fight against the virus, and emerging slowly into the post-pandemic world.
Not only can yogic or mindful breathing be amazing for the body, but earning to control the breath is a one-stop ticket to a a healthier, happier mind. When we breathe using the diaphragm, we send messages through the vagus nerve that we are resting, comfortable and safe. This kicks in an automatic response in moving from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) essentially allowing all of the ‘fight/flight/freeze’ reflexes to shut down, and for healing to happen. By breathing deeply, you can activate your PNS, and in turn, slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure—creating a feeling of deep calm.
By breathing deeply and mindfully we can access deeper and more transcendent states of meditation, therefore allowing the body to release and relax any stored trauma and tension. Many people find breath work highly emotional, relieving and rewarding due to the impactful nature of it’s ability to release traumatic memory or patterns stored in the body or mind.
On a more philosophical level breath work, or traditionally Pranayama, was seen as the driving force of expanding life force, or Prana, around the mind, body and spirit. If one could learn to control, hold, direct and expand the breath then one could essentially unlock different parts of the body or mind to open up more space for love to seep in. When engaging with breath work practices we can often feel a fresh sense of joy, vitality and openness in the mind-body that may not have previously been accessible, unlocking deeper states of consciousness and meditation.
The breath is free, it’s available and abundant on this earth. It is one of the only wellness practices available that doesn’t have political or socio-economic qualitative factors to be able to access it. Privilege is not a question here – if you can breathe you can take part in building towards a healthier, happier body and mind. So take a long deeeeeeeeeeep breath (do it right now!) and feel the amazing impact this simple act of life can have.
Live long, and breathe deep.