Woman Breathing SunsetThe Importance of Breath by Sue Fuller

The breath is a vital component of yoga.  It brings the true essence of yoga into the practice and separates yoga from any other physical activity.

The word yoga translates from Sanskrit to mean union.  When a smooth steady flow of breath is established and maintained whilst performing a series of yoga postures, it is possible to experience this sense of union.

In yoga the pace and tempo of the movements performed are governed by the speed of the breath.  During many other physical activities the breath follows the movement, which is usually influenced by the level of exertion.

The breath will help to relax both body and mind.  A slow steady breathing technique stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for relaxation, the heart rate and blood pressure naturally lower and stress levels are reduced.  Whereas breathing quickly stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and the fight or flight response which often raises stress levels in the body.

As awareness develops in the practice of yoga the breath assists alignment and carries practitioners safely into the postures.  A slow smooth steady flow of breath is crucial.  Here is an example, it is usual that whilst performing seated postures the spine lengthens on an inhalation and the torso rotates or folds on an exhalation or when performing a held seated posture the spine lengthens on the inhalation and the shoulders naturally relax and soften on the exhalation.

As we age the lungs lose some of their elasticity a sound breathing technique will help the lungs remain agile and flexible so that plenty of oxygen is received.  As oxygen is our main source of fuel the more oxygen we receive through an efficient breathing technique the better the body functions.

Through history the breath in yoga has always been referred to as prana.  Breathing exercises are called pranayamas.  Prana is regarded as so much more than just breath, it is our vital life force, the universal energy that is present in everything.   Prana is the essence of all life.  It helps to balance body and mind, its potential is endless.  The literal translation for the word pranayama is restraint or control of vital life force, it is also translated as expansion of vital life force.

As we move further into our yoga practices the importance of the breath becomes greater and even more apparent.  As we practice we are required to control the breath and become aware of how the breath influences the body and mind.  Start slowly with a smooth steady flow of breath through the nose and the rest will fall into place.  Never worry about whether you should be breathing in or out just keep the breath flowing with awareness.

 “When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life.”  Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Pranayamas and Mudras Vol 2 by Sue FullerSue Fuller is a leading yoga teacher with a range of over 60 audio yoga classes, all postures are carefully selected for the relevant and appropriate level including Gentle Yoga for the absolute beginner, Beginners Yoga, Improvers for those moving on from the beginner level and Strong Yoga classes for the more advanced yoga practitioners who wish to perform stronger yoga postures. 

Sue’s complete range of Yoga 2 Hear audio yoga classes, are safe and effective and available from www.yoga2hear.co.uk.