It is something we do each and every day without thought and without question. Our chest lengthens as our lungs expand and air enters and exits our mouths and noses. This act preserves our lives, yet its power goes unrecognized.
Breathing, respiration, oxygenating, whatever you may name it, is the act of passing air through our bodies in exchange with the environment. When we breathe, we come in contact with the existence of breath. Through complex biological and physical sciences, this act is analyzed and studied thoroughly, but in the art of meditation, we learn of a different function of breathing: Pranayama.
According to Yoga Journal, an online and printed resource for yoga-doers of all levels, Pranayama is the art of controlling one’s breath in order to provide energy to a tired body, to lift a down spirit, and to tame a wandering mind. This practice has originated in Middle-Eastern regions and has spread to the United States more recently. Yoga and meditation, though used interchangeably are two different practices, which share the same benefits through varying methods. Yoga is commonly known for movement of the body and muscular activity while Meditation is known for movement of the mind and emotional activity. Both practices place an equivalent emphasis upon “the breath.”
“The breath” is named such because ancient sages, also known as, wellness instructors, believed it to be its own entity within humans. They believed there was a distinct difference between “breathing” and “the breath.” “The breath” is known to be a singular existence and focal point while “breathing” is simply the act of passing air through our bodies. “The breath” allows one to bring Prana into our lives, what ancient sages believed to be the vital force of humanity. Prana is the idea that through the act of controlling “the breath,” we can find harmony and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our purposes. It is also a method of being in touch with our inner spirituality and embracing the world for its gifts of oxygen, shelter, and nourishment.
A common misconception of the meditative practice is that it is tedious and difficult. However, the truth is anyone can meditate and it does not require a lot of time or a lot of effort, especially if one wishes to practice Pranayama. All you need is a few minutes to close your eyes or bring them to a soft gaze upon a near object and breathe. Rather than just inhaling and exhaling, as you do naturally, count to five as you inhale, take a brief pause, and count to five as you exhale. If you wish, you may lengthen your counts to suit your needs. Keep your inhales and exhales equal for a few times, then lengthen your inhale to perhaps a count of seven and keep your exhales to a count of 5. The numbers are not significant, compared to the notion of controlling your breath, and being aware of your body in the present moment. Simply embrace the movement of your breath as your posture changes with each inhale and exhale. Do this for as few or several moments as you’d like.
For more information regarding the act of Pranayama, a simple Google search will always suffice. Also, take a look around your local library for Yoga and Meditation books, movies, journals, and any other media you’d like. Long Island Media has several articles regarding this topic as well, specifically written by our own member Break the Norms. Simply search for yoga and meditation in our convenient search bar, or click on the Health and Wellness link in our toolbar underneath our Articles tab.
Remember, breathing can not only save your lives, but it can save your mind.
Written By: Angel McCarrick
Photo By: ronsho © License: Creative Commons