Why a lot of importance is given to breath in Yoga? What is the link between the breath, body and mind, apart from keeping us alive?
In a typical Yoga class, we are constantly instructed to breathe consciously, inhale, exhale, retain our breath, etc. But what impact does it have on our Yoga practice and on our body and mind – too many to pen down!
Breathing consciously helps us to connect to the prana and the subtle energy within us.
It is only through the breath that we can navigate through the different levels of consciousness. Moreover, breathing consciously brings about a mental, emotional and physical effect on the person.
A different part of the brain is activated during conscious breathing as the cerebral cortex is activated and this has a relaxing and balancing effect on the emotions of a person. By consciously breathing, we are controlling our mind to elevate from the primitive level to an evolved and an elevated state.
This controlled form of breathing, activates the cerebral cortex, which is concerned with emotions and relaxes this area. This is the reason why slowing down the breath has a soothing effect on your emotional state.
Breath controls the body, mind, and emotions. There are 72,000 nadis, or channels where the subtle energy flows throughout the body. Of the 72,000, there are 3 that are the most important: Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna.
The Ida and the Pingala originate at the Muladhara Chakra and ends at the left and right nostril respectively. Ida, aligned with the Moon energy, has a calming effect, whereas the Pingala associated with the Sun energy has a heating effect. The Sushumna Nadi is the central channel. This is the nadi that the Kundalini energy travels and is associated with balance.
Based on the mental, emotional and physical state of the person, the breath alternates through one of the nostrils throughout the day and the Sushumna is activated for a couple of minutes when the changeover happens. The key is to activate the Sushumna for a longer period of time which happens when both the Ida and Pingala are flowing evenly, with slow breathing and retention.
Kumbhaka, or retention of the breath has a physiological effect on the brain. First, it provides more opportunity for the cells to absorb oxygen which has a calming effect on the mental and emotional body. This slight increase in carbon dioxide for a short amount of time reduces anxiety levels.
Furthermore, retention of the breath builds up immense amount of nervous energy in the brain and activates the dormant centres and thus, the brain is awakened!
The Yoga Chudamani Upanishads states that the breath has a sound that is heard at a particular level of consciousness. According to the Upanishads, the sound of the breath is “So” during inhalation, and “Ham” during exhalation.
By understanding the relationship between the breath, prana and the mind with one another you are better equipped to navigate your life to a higher elevation, and repair it when it breaks down.
The yoga mat is just the starting point of your journey!