Wellness, Wholeness, Happiness and Life It Begins and Ends with the Breath
Aug 31, 2020 11:00AM
By Swamini Shraddhananda Saraswati
Ancient traditions, such as yoga, place an immense importance on the breath. Not only because it is the vital essence of our aliveness, but also because it supports proper function of all the systems of the body and declutters the mind. Breathing, ancient and modern yogis have said, is the key to wellness, wholeness, happiness and life.
Modern scientists repeatedly acknowledge that breathing impacts numerous body functions including digestion, venous and lymphatic flow, speech, detoxification and emotional and psychological stability. An article published in Cureus Journal of Medical Science in 2018 by B. Bordoni and others, “The Influence of Breathing on the Central Nervous System,” describes that “the respiratory rhythm, directly and indirectly, affects the central nervous system, and the functions of the diaphragm affects the whole body system.”
Breathing is a key component in adaptive, or accessible, yoga practices. Adaptive yoga is a safe and supportive highly personalized practice that combines gentle movement, postures and mindful breathing in ways meant to empower resiliency and healing in the face of trauma, injury, stress, illness or the effects of aging. Scientific research indicates that the practice of mindful breathing can reduce pain, improve focus, help to regulate vital statistics such as heart rate and support a more appropriate nervous system response.
Certain breathing patterns signal the parasympathetic function of the nervous system, which calms the body. Breathing in supportive ways helps the student to manage their stress response, and decreases the impact of fear, anxiety and mental unrest.
When practicing adaptive yoga postures, breathing mindfully is the key that makes the practice complete. Yoga postures build strength and physical resiliency. Breathing with awareness emphasizes connection, compassion and the plethora of psychospiritual and emotional benefits.
An adaptive yoga practice begins and ends with the breath.
Simple breath awareness techniques are an ideal way to commence practice. Pay attention on purpose to flow, direction and detail of each breath. When the moments that begin a yoga practice are centering, a space is created in which to reconnect to the peace within. Beginning a practice from a place of calm may actually enhance the benefits of that practice, rather than rushing to get started, finish and move on to the next thing.
Each movement and posture during practice is internalized and personalized when accompanied by the breath. Each posture reintroduces the student to a part of the self that may have been forgotten, avoided or judged in a harmful way. The breath cultivates a space wherein compassion can grow, insight can be perceived and used as a guide and intention to know wholeness can be clarified.
Practice can end with a breath of gratitude. Recognizing that the in-breath equates to the gift of life and the out-breath is a sharing and an expression of that gift.
When adaptive yoga is practiced, and the breath is allowed to guide the experience, the student will inevitably leave class carrying something very special with them, a new perspective of self and a healthier way of being.
Swamini Shraddhananda Saraswati is a female monk, Ph.D., spiritual teacher, yoga therapist and co-founder of Kula Kamala Foundation and Yoga Ashram, located at 17 Basket Rd., Reading. For more information, call 484-509-5073, email [email protected] or visit KulaKamalaFoundaton.org.
The Breathing Book: Good Health and Vitality Through Essential Breath Work by Donna Farhi, Henry Holt & Company, 1996
Yoga for Everyone: 50 Poses For Every Type of Body by Diane Bondy, Alpha, 2019