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Why breathing is important in yoga

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Research confirms that proper breathing can change the way you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. We also know that because of this unique trait, breathing unites the body and mind together. [1][2]

Yoga also unites the mind and the body. The word “yoga” literally translates to “union” or “yoke” in English. Being aware of your breath is essential to yoga and coordinating our breath with the movements or asanas, as they are referred to in yoga is what makes it unique. Therefore, yoga is literally the joining of breath, body, and mind. 

So, Breath is actually what makes yoga, yoga!  However, why exactly is breathing important in yoga? What makes proper breathing so essential to the practice of yoga? 

When we focus on our breath during yoga practice, the control of the breath shifts from the lower part of our brain stem (the medulla oblongata deals with our autonomic functions such as breathing and heart rate ) to the cerebral cortex (evolved part of the brain) due to us being aware of our breath. The moment when we start being aware of our breath, that’s when the magic starts to happen. Our mind will become quieter and a calm awareness arises. [3]

In essence, our breath becomes a bridge to a state of inner peace and mindfulness, a lighthouse guiding us through the stormy seas of our mind, and into the serene harbor of our innermost being. However, that's not all. Breathing, specifically controlled breathing or Pranayama in yogic terminology, has a profound impact on our overall health, strengthening our body from within and enhancing our mental faculties. 

At Mudita, we’re BIG fans of BOTH yoga and mindful breathing. So, let’s go over the benefits of controlled breathing in yoga, and why it's crucial to pay heed to this seemingly ordinary act.

The Magic of Controlled Breathing in Yoga

  • Promotes Physical Well-being: Controlled, mindful breathing can stimulate the relaxation response in your body. This physiological process helps to reduce stress, lowers blood pressure, improves digestion, and boosts the immune system. When you practice deep breathing during yoga, it also increases the oxygen supply to your body, facilitating better energy production and enhancing your overall stamina and fitness.

  • Enhances Emotional Stability: As your awareness of your breath increases, you'll begin to notice a sense of calmness enveloping you. The incessant chatter of your mind starts to dwindle, and emotional turbulence subsides. Your response to stressful situations improves, promoting emotional balance and resilience. With regular practice, yoga and mindful breathing can act as powerful tools in managing anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.

  • Improves Mental Clarity: Proper breathing can stimulate brain growth, specifically in areas associated with memory, cognitive function, and emotional control. Furthermore, the increased oxygen supply to your brain enhances concentration and sharpens your mental faculties. Over time, this can lead to improved problem-solving skills and a better ability to focus and concentrate.[4][5][6]

  • Supports Spiritual Growth: Yoga is more than just a physical exercise; it's a spiritual practice that seeks to connect you with your true self. Breathing plays a crucial role in this journey. As you attune to your breath, you start observing your thoughts and emotions without judgment, cultivating mindfulness, and fostering a sense of inner peace and tranquility.

It's apparent that breathing isn't just a survival mechanism; it's a potent tool for holistic well-being. As B.K.S Iyengar, a revered yoga guru, said, "The breath is the intelligence of the body." [7]

By becoming aware and controlling our breath during yoga, we can truly harness this intelligence, transforming our health, mind, and life.

Making Breath Work For You

So, how can you tap into this power of breath? Incorporating Pranayama or breathing exercises into your daily routine can be a great start. Practices like Anulom Vilom (Alternate Nostril Breathing), Kapalbhati (Skull Shining Breath), and Bhramari (Bee Breath) are simple yet effective techniques to master the art of controlled breathing. 

Remember, mindfulness is key in these practices. As you perform these exercises, keep your attention gently focused on the breath. Feel the air moving in and out of your nostrils, observe the rise and fall of your belly, and immerse yourself in this moment. Over time, this will become second nature, and you'll notice a substantial improvement in your physical health, mental clarity, and overall well-being.

Check out the information on our page devoted to mindful breathing and breathwork, for more information.

Breath: The Cornerstone of Yoga and Health

The importance of breathing in yoga goes beyond merely providing oxygen to our bodies. It is the essence of yoga, an anchor which keeps us grounded in the present moment, and a tool that unites our body, mind, and spirit.

Furthermore, mindful breathing exercises can be a potent tool to boost health and well-being. They help manage stress, foster emotional balance, enhance cognitive abilities, and support spiritual growth. With regular practice, we can tap into this incredible power of breath, transforming our lives in ways we've never imagined.

As you step onto your yoga mat next time, remember to breathe. Breathe with intention, with awareness, and with gratitude. After all, each breath is a testament to the miracle of life. Harness the power of this miracle, one breath at a time. Embrace the union of your breath, body, and mind – that is the true essence of yoga.

Remember, yoga isn't just about the asanas ; it's about what you learn as you perfect your . And as you navigate this journey, let your breath be your guide, your ally, and your friend.

Happy breathing, happy practicing!

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