Your breath is a powerful tool. You may have noticed that your breathing pattern changes as you experience different emotions. When you’re sad your outbreath is long, when you’re angry it’s hard, when you’re anxious your breath is short and shallow and when you’re happy it’s long and light. Because of this intimate link between your breath and your mind, you can dramatically influence the state of your mind and emotions once you know how to work with your breath.
Different yogic breathing practices affect your mind and emotions differently. Most of these practices are short and can be learnt easily during a regular yoga class, others take much longer and need to be taught over a period of days, but what they have in common is that they must be practiced without strain, on an empty stomach (3 hours after a meal) and under the guidance of a trained teacher.
Within your breath there is a simple yet profound healing capability. Some of the many benefits of yogic breathing practices is that they can: dramatically increase your energy level, free you from (or at least reduce) depression, anxiety, stress and trauma. Millions of people have turned their lives around completely through breathing practices and the main reason for this is the connection between your breath and your mind. When you work with your breath you’re actually working with your mind.
For many meditators breathing practices are used before meditation and there’s good reason why – certain breathing practices can take the mind to the door of meditation and are a tremendous aid for any meditator from any tradition. Padideh Fazelzadeh, naturaopathy student, 31 years, says “When I first practiced sudarshan kriya my mind became incredibly still. For the first time ever I was able to meditate effortlessly, without all the restlessness that I’d experienced when I’d sat to meditate before.”
Where did these practices begin?
Yoga is innate to the human nervous system. Babies move in and out of different asanas, mudras (hand positions) and breathing patterns and these are part of their natural development process. There are also many reported cases of people with no background in yoga doing yoga poses and pranayama spontaneously during techniques like cathartic breath work and in recovery from traumatic events.
Senior Meditation and Yoga Instructor with the Art of Living Foundation, Chris Dale, feels that we have a fundamental urge to turn our attention inwards. “There have always been people who felt that there is much more to life than what appears to the senses and there have always been adepts who have shared their own findings about the inward journey.”
What is the importance of breathing practices and does a yoga practice have to include them?
The opening verse of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the most important texts on Hatha Yoga makes it clear that the purpose of hatha yoga is a means to achieve raja yoga. ie. the physical practices are aimed at preparing the system for stilling the mind.
“While it’s certainly helpful to be able to sit properly with your spine straight without discomfort, you don’t have to be able to sit in padmasana (lotus pose) for three hours or have mastered all of the major asanas before learning pranayama, which is the position of some schools,” says Dale.
People who just practice asana will definitely experience some benefit to their health and state of mind, but there’s much more to yoga than asana. You could practise asanas for many years and maintain and improve your physical and mental health, but still be unhappy and disturbed in your mind and emotions.
“I know many people who have been wandering around like lost sheep in the world of yoga who found that a practice which included pranayama and meditation, as well as yogic knowledge, enabled them to find their way,” says Dale.
However, asanas practised by themselves diligently with a balance between effort and relaxation can be a very nice entry to yoga and a good initial first step.
“While there’s a minority view that everything in yoga is attainable through asana, I personally feel that nearly everyone would benefit from practising some pranayama and meditation at an early stage in their practice, as long as they learned under someone who knows what they’re doing,” says Dale. Pranayama and meditation, combined with an understanding about the mind and how to manage it, are very effective tools with which to create health, happiness and harmony on every level of your being.
Learn The Sudarshan Kriya Breathing Practice, as taught in 3000 cities and experienced by millions of people:
The Happiness Program
Date: 4th-8th November 2015
Venue: Dundas Community Centre 21 Stuart Street Telopea, Sydney N.S.W 2117
Places are limited.
Call Padi on 0421 176 669 or email
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