The Importance of Breathing in Yoga
During a yoga class there is always massive concentration on the breath. As we move through asanas we are instructed to inhale and exhale with the movements. But why is the breath so important? Other than of course its primary function, to keep us alive.
Scientifically, the air we breathe in oxygenates our blood, which in turn moves around the body to our muscles among other things. We use that blood during exercise and then it is sent back to the lungs to be oxygenated again. But, in Yoga we use the breath for so much more than that.
You may have heard the Sanskrit word ‘Prana’ used in your yoga class. ‘Prana’ is an energy which flows through the body using channels (Nadis). When we practice controlling the breath through Pranayama we can unblock these channels and make them available so that the Prana can flow freely. Our general asana practice- the movements we do in class, also help to free up the Nadis and it is moving with the breath that relaxes our body and enables us to move into the positions to do this.
Another reason the breath is used in yoga is meditation. Breathing is an unconscious process within our bodies, we don’t have to think ‘now I must inhale, now I must exhale’. By consciously breathing or controlling how we breath, it moves the starting point of the process to a different part of our brain and when this part of the brain is activated it is stimulated, which in turn brings relaxation and a balancing effect on the emotions. So conscious breathing in itself is a meditation, just 10 minutes of conscious breathing a day would impact your daily life in a healthy and positive way.
This is only a brief highlighting of the importance of breathing in Yoga, but it is clear that the breath is the very essence that makes Yoga a full and rounded practice (not just an exercise class as is so widely misconceived). So, in your next class or practice try to allocate some of your thoughts to the breath (I’m sure your teacher will be helping towards this as well) and see if you can feel the affect that it has on the flow of energy during the main practice, or the relaxing affect during Savasana.
And remember…’A Little Yoga (and breathing!) goes a long way’