Conscious Breathing: Practicing Yoga Anytime & Anywhere, Without A Mat
The average person breathes about 23,000 times per day.
Breathing is the one continuous activity we do non-stop, all day, every day during the entire course of our lives.
So it’s easy to take your breath for granted or overlook it.
Most of us don’t give the act of breathing a moment’s notice unless we’re forced to. For example, like when we encounter respiratory issues such as when we have a stuffy nose and a cold.
I’d like to offer you a new perspective on breathing here.
Because the act of breathing can actually be a very sacred experience.
You can practice yoga throughout the day by bringing awareness to your breath, without ever touching a yoga mat or stepping into a yoga studio.
In this way, breathing takes on new meaning.
When you add meaning to something as rote and automatic as breathing, it can create subtle profound shifts in your life, and it can also influence the manner in which you approach life’s daily stresses and challenges.
Yoga creates Union; the breath is the bridge:
Breath is the thing that connects us to the entire biome.
If you think of the Earth as a living organism, the Earth does something very beautiful and complementary to us:
It inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen which is why we have this beautiful oxygen rich atmosphere.
And we, in turn, inhale oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.
The exact opposite process.
So there’s a complementary pattern where we breathe in what the Earth breathes out.
When we breathe out, the Earth breathes that back in again.
And this process of breathing in oxygen into our bodies is a process of transformation.
We are literally breathing the outside into ourselves.– Charlie Knoles, Vedic meditation teacher
The word ‘Yoga’ means ‘union’ and ‘joining of.’
With every inhale and every exhale, from your very first gasp of air as you come out of your mother’s body until the very last breath you take before you return to source, you are in constant union with your environment and with Mother Earth via your breath.
This connection is always there… Like an invisible thread uniting you at all times.
When we get bogged down, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, sick, fatigued, or sideswiped – we forget about this connection.
We forget that we form part of something greater than just ourselves.
Prana in the body of the individual is part of the cosmic breath of the Universal Spirit.
An attempt is made to harmonize the individual breath with the cosmic breath through the practice of pranayama (yogic breathing).
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Teacher & Author of Light on Yoga
If Yoga is Union, then the true mission of every yogi is to seek and ultimately experience this union first within oneself and then with the world outside.
Your breath is the bridge and portal through which you begin this journey inwards towards the union with your True Self.
In a very real sense with every inbreath and outbreath you’re dancing with your environment via the exchange of particles and elements that occur synergistically with both at all times while you’re alive.
When you can perceive your breathing as Yoga in action, it takes on new meaning.
Instead of just rote inhales and exhales, each conscious breath cycle becomes a sacred exchange of give and receive.
Renowned yoga teacher B.K.S Iyengar said: “The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, a Temple is “a place devoted to a special purpose.”
Your body is the one and only place you have in this lifetime to carry out your purpose and create meaningful, inspiring things with.
You are your own home and you are your own Temple.
Each mindful and intentional breath is your Offering.
The benefits of conscious breathing:
Your nervous system is intimately tied to your breath.
The autonomic nervous system overseas multiple body functions and regulates blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing pattern.
It has two branches:
1- The sympathetic nervous system is associated with the fight-or-flight response/ stress response.
2- The parasympathetic nervous system is associated with the relaxation response
Deep breathing exercises (aka belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing) help to activate the relaxation response, enhance your body’s regenerative capacity, and even boost your immune system.
This is why a regular breathing practice is highly recommended for stress reduction, good health, and well-being.