Learn how to breathe...

Friday, 14 August 2020 15:12
A little while ago I ran my regular pranayama workshop. On the blackboard outside and had written:  “Learn how to breathe” and then the details of the workshop. I was about to start a class when I heard a guy say: “Look at that they’re teaching us how to breathe. Ha! I think I already know how to breathe!”
 
Where are we today with our understanding of the breath and how to breathe?
 
There is a long history of the study of the breath.
 
“Seven books of the Chinese Tao dating back to around 400BC focussed entirely on breathing, how it could kill us or heal us, depending on how we used it. Even earlier, Hindus considered breath and spirit the same thing and described elaborate practices that were meant to balance breathing and preserve both physical and mental health. Then there were the Buddhists, who used breathing not only to lengthen their lives but to reach higher planes of consciousness. Breathing, for all these people, for all these cultures, was powerful medicine.” (James Nestor, The Guardian 26/7/20)
 
And today It appears as long as you’re breathing you’re OK. Breathing in and breathing out it doesn’t matter how, as long as it keeps you alive. And those specialising in the workings of breathing are focussed primarily on what can go wrong - cancer, collapse, emphysema etc - and how to fix it.
 

 
Teaching Nadi Shodana in the Yoga Path Content Library video ‘Pranayama Class Nadi Shodana’. 
 
We may have become more concerned with our breathing just recently. Our mouth and nose are now covered by our masks bringing our centre of attention on finding ways to breathe through the material. We are also checking for signs of illness with the restriction of breath or a tightness in the chest that previously just wasn’t there. Maybe this contemplation on the breath may help us realise that the breath can do more than just merely keep us living.
 
The scientific approach to the mere gaseous exchange diminishes the marvel of the breath, of the process of breathing. We can take it for granted or even completely ignore it.
 
Even the word ‘respiration’ indicates that the breath and the spirit are interrelated. The Latin root of the word is spiritus meaning ‘the breath of god’. As we inhale it’s called inspiration and the exhale is expiration. The inhale can bring a sense of inspiration, something new, an insight/vision/understanding. Expiration = termination/departure/ending.
 
Many people develop shallow breathing patterns. And you may notice that when you become agitated the breath changes. The breath can be an amazing teacher. And by controlling your breath you can control your mind. 
BKS Iyengar says: “If the breath scatters, the mind wanders. If the mind wanders, the breath scatters. So still the breath to still the mind. Mind is the king.” (Light on Life, p.28)
 
Learn about the breath
 
 
Content Library subscribers can take advantage of dedicated pranayama class with Nicole or more of an informal approach with Tom’s Yoga and Breath Meditation Series. Subscribe now
 
Or attend the Pop Up Pranayama Class next Sunday 16th at 2pm (free for the Lockdown Pass members and other members). Book your place
 
Namaste,
Nicole
 
Yoga Path
An Iyengar Yoga School
5 Hall St
Newport Vic 3015
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