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Artistic interpretation of the breath. Blue and yellow paint blotches on roughly woven canvas, running into each other.

Why How We Breathe Matters?


Our breath is a powerful tool.

The way we breathe has a profound impact on our overall health and well-being, extending far beyond simply keeping us alive. Our breath can be seen as a powerful tool that can either nourish or harm us, depending on the quality and depth of our breathing. Various factors, such as stress, sedentary lifestyles, poor posture, imbalances in breathing muscles, environmental influences, and even psychological and emotional causes, can contribute to the development of inefficient and faulty breathing habits over time.

Engaging in shallow, rapid breaths as a habit triggers a stress response in our body through the sympathetic branch of the involuntary (unconscious) nervous system, regardless of whether we are aware of it or not. However, by becoming aware of our breath and practicing intentional breathing techniques, we can restore balance and optimize our physical and mental well-being. For example, practicing deep diaphragmatic breathing, where the belly expands on the inhale and contracts on the exhale, allows us to consciously influence the parasympathetic branch of the involuntary nervous system. This practice promotes relaxation, reduces stress, enhances lung capacity, improves cognitive function, and even supports the body's natural healing processes.

Through the exhale, we release what no longer serves us.

The importance of the exhale is often overlooked when discussing breath, but it holds great significance in Yoga and breathwork practices. In Yoga, the exhale is the phase during which we release what no longer serves us physically and energetically. It is through the Apana, one of the main pranas or vital energies in Yogic tradition, that the exhale detoxifies and purifies our physical and energy systems. Apana represents the downward and outward flow of energy, associated with the grounding element of Earth. It plays a role in eliminating toxins, waste, and stagnant energy from the system, primarily located in the lower abdomen, and pelvic region, and connected to the functions of digestion, elimination, and reproductive organs.

From a physiological perspective, the exhale is when we expel carbon dioxide, a byproduct of metabolism. Effective removal of carbon dioxide is crucial as it impacts the ability of oxygen to reach our cells efficiently. Inadequate elimination of carbon dioxide can result in increased levels in the body, leading to reduced oxygen binding and transport by red blood cells. By cultivating a longer and complete exhale, we can enhance the body's capacity to eliminate waste and optimize energy production.

 

Yoga offers well-tested methods for deepening and elongating the exhale, making it a valuable tool for improving overall breath control and efficiency.

During Yoga postures, the breath guides the movements.

Furthermore, in Yoga classes, the breath serves as a guide, support, and transformative force in our practice. Through conscious breathing, we tap into hidden layers of possibilities. Synchronizing movement and breath during asana practice enables us to access a state of flow, where the mind and body unite in harmonious coordination. This synchronized approach enhances focus, improves coordination and balance, heightens body awareness, and creates a sense of joy and freedom.

 

In summary, through conscious breathing practices, we have the ability to harness the power of our breath to promote relaxation, release what no longer serves us, improve oxygen utilisation, enhance physical performance, and cultivate a sense of inner harmony.


The information and insights are based on the book "Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art" by James Nestor (Nestor, J.) and have been reviewed by OpenAI.
 
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