The connection between breathing and yoga
July 02, 2023
Normally we are not aware of our breathing. It is an involuntary process that occurs 25 hours a day. During the practice of yoga, the synchronization and connection between the breath and our body makes a big difference in the benefits of our practice.
What the body does when we breathe
Let's first understand the effect that breathing has on our body and how movements affect it.
Three organs are actively involved in this process: the lungs, the diaphragm, and the abdominal muscles.
When we inhale, the chest expands and the diaphragm moves downward, helping the lungs to inhale. At this time, the abdominal muscles are subtly pushed out. On exhalation this movement is undone: the diaphragm returns to its original position, relaxing, and the abdomen and lungs contract.
As is clear, all these parts work together in harmony, and if one of them is tense or weak, this will have an impact on respiratory efficiency.
Another movement that occurs in our body and that helps to understand the importance of breathing in yoga is that of the spine. When we inhale, the chest expands and the muscles that connect the ribs to the spine contract, straightening the latter. In order to breathe in the best way using the spine, chest and abdomen well, it makes sense that the asanas accompany the inhalation and exhalation so that the movement supports the breath and the breath supports the movement.
For example, when we raise our arms or arch our back or come out of a twist, our trunk expands so it's convenient to inhale. On the other hand, when we bend or turn or there is a contraction of the abdomen, these movements ask for and improve exhalation.
When this synchronization occurs, we will feel more stable, alert and comfortable (sthiram and sukham) while doing the asanas.
When the need to breathe a second time between asana and asana arises, this indicates that we have left our comfort zone. It is a good idea to start the breath first and then start the movement, undo the movement and finish completing the breath. In this way it is ensured that each movement is within each inhalation - exhalation, and the breathing in general will become slower, more conscious and deeper.
The importance of the connection between breath and mind
Another very important thing is the connection between breath and mind. When the mind is disturbed or stressed, our breathing will be erratic, short and shallow.
But if the mind is calm, the breath will automatically become calm.
In this way, when we focus on the breath during the asanas, we become more aware and the mind becomes quiet and calm. Prana flows more freely, the mind remains quieter and we are able to feel each posture much more.
One of the great teachers of yoga, Sri TKV Desikachar mentioned that “It does not matter how beautiful a posture is made or how flexible the body is. If we do not achieve the total integration of the body, mind and breath, we can hardly say that we are doing Yoga. Yoga is something that is experienced from within. Yoga is not an external experience. At Yoga, we try to be as mindful as possible in everything we do.”