Why is there so much focus on the breath in yoga? In my classes, I place an emphasis between the link between our breath and the movements we lead into — so why is it so important (as it relates to yoga)?
As we hold or flow through our practice, we consciously breath, connect to our breath, breathe deeply, maintain our breath, and create mind, body and awareness. The more we connect our breath, the more present we are in our practice. The more we breathe into the postures, the deeper we open into the spaces of the mind and body.
Our breath, in essence, is our energy — the life force or life energy that fuels and connects our mind to our body to our spirit.
In a typical yoga class, I will instruct my students to breathe consciously, observe the quality of their breath and listen to the rise and fall of their breath. It is through the breath that you navigate to different levels of consciousness, allowing you to stay present in your mental, emotional and physical state.
When you concentrate on each aspect of the breathing process, you are present; you let go of the past and future and focus on the moment inside the breath. This is why breathing consciously is a meditation in itself.
As you breath consciously, you’ll notice the change in your breathing pattern and the movement of energy through your body. The control of the breath helps you control the cardiovascular and circulatory system, improve the digestive and regulate the nervous system.
For example, when you breath in a circular motion around the spine there are many benefits. Inhalation through the back of the body into the spine improves the circulation to inter-vertebral joints. Inhalation down the front of the body (through your chest) relieves prolapse of the internal organs, which helps to remove pressure in the digestive system. Exhalation up the back of the body can help remove stale blood from the spine and strengthen the muscles supporting healthy spinal functions. Exhalation down the front of the body helps to massage the internal organs, slow down the heart rate and calm the nervous system.
When conscious breath connects with breath control, your mind moves in sync with your body through your breath. Each breath brings oxygenated blood to your muscles, increases the intensity of your postures, and trains your muscles to release and activate to support body alignment and posture.