Breath is an autonomic action of the body that provides us with the oxygen intake and carbon dioxide release that is vital for survival… but it is a life force that is so much more. Within the practice of yoga, the breath is referred to as prana which translates to life force or vital energy whereas pranayama is the extension of the prana.
“Prana is a subtle invisible force. It is the life-force that pervades the body. It is the factor that connects the body and the mind, because it is connected on one side with the body and on the other side with the mind. It is the connecting link between the body and the mind. The body and the mind have no direct connection. They are connected through Prana only.” – Swami Chidananda Saraswati
Numerous exercises instruct how to still the mind and attain awareness through breath control. Many physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual benefits can be gained from attention-focused breathing. Conscious alterations of inhalation and exhalation and a mindfulness of breath can provide health benefits ranging from managing mood imbalances, regulating gastrointestinal disturbances (ex: GERD), lowering blood pressure, improving sleep and helping maintain or regain a youthful appearance. Breath can also be an instrument to aide in the release of past trauma (emotional or physical) and encourage work toward clearing the memories and freeing oneself of the burden.
One of the most appealing things about breath work is that for 15 minutes out of the day, an individual can transform their health in a profound way – and it is all free. The act of slowly breathing in your nose and out of your nose causes the direct stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system which acts to calm the body. Adding the action of belly breathing where one forcefully sticks out the abdomen during inspiration and contracts the abdomen during exhalation drives the diaphragm muscle up and down allowing for additional space for air to fill the lungs and therefore additional tissue perfusion and inspiratory volume expansion.
There are many different methods and techniques for beginning to approach your health and wellbeing with breath work. I challenge you to go out and find a book, CD, iphone app, website, meditation studio or whatever you choose to begin the journey toward taking advantage and control over this powerful and readily accessible tool.
Contact a Naturopathic physician with Blocks of Health for additional breathing techniques and methods of incoporating this powerful tool into your routine.