We do it every day, every moment of every hour in a day, and usually with very little thought devoted to it. Breathing. Inhaling and exhaling. Simple and autonomous, and yet so much more. B. K. S. Iyengar wrote that prāna is “breath, respiration, life, vitality, wind, energy, or strength.” Prānāyāma is essentially the science of breathing. Body and mind, breath and mind, are inextricably linked together. When we work with our breath, we directly affect and influence the physiology of the body. Steady, even inhalations and exhalations help balance and regulate the nervous system. Longer exhalations shift the body in to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming and soothing to the body (think slowing down of the heartbeat).
As the body calms, desire diminishes and the mind settles. This is why in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, prānāyāma is described as a precursor to concentration. Concentration is one of the core precepts of meditation. With a calm mind, meditation becomes effortless instead of a struggle. Then we can begin the work of sifting through the layers of “stuff”–thoughts, feelings, memories, emotions, boredom, the endless play of life–until we reach Source.
Beginning this week and continuing through the year, we will be learning and practicing a series of prānāyāma techniques as an integral part of our meditation practice. Join me every Friday, 1:30-2:00pm, Breath & Meditation, Breathe Los Gatos. http://breathelosgatos.com