The Power of the Breath: Conscious Listening

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We can live without a lot of things for a while, including food, but oxygen is not one of them. When it comes to yoga, breath is the key that unlocks the flow of energy in the body, calms the mind and brings one into a more balanced state. In yoga we call our breath practice, pranayama, translated this means: to expand the life force. After a long session of yoga breathing or pranayama, one may feel lighter and more present to the moment. Cultivating a deeper listening to the breath is one way stress can be managed, released and eliminated. 
 
Tips for using the breath to support your practice: 
• Take slow, steady breaths in through your nose and out through your nose. Start with a slow, long inhale that fills up your chest. Focus on breathing the air in slow, just like you would if you were taking a slow sip through a straw. Keep increasing your lung capacity by lengthening the breath until you have completed the inhale a bit deeper each time. This can be practiced for a minute or two before starting your practice, can be practiced in the middle of the day if you are tired, or at the end of the day to help you fall asleep. Taking slow deep breaths will access the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to relieve stress. Notice how your energy is throughout the day, pause to notice your breath. Regulate and reconnect the breath when you notice holding or shallow breathing.
 
• One can practice coming to the yoga practice with a keen awareness of the texture of the breath and the rhythm of the breath using the breath as a guide rather than focusing on reaching a certain depth inside of the posture. The breath is there to support expansion into the posture and release of tension while holding. This is the most important part. Remember to take your time and go slow. Inhale as you are coming into and out of the postures.
 
• One common misconception is that yoga is the posture alone. Yoga is the awareness we bring to the posture and inside of the depth of awareness. Your breath brings consciousness and presence to your practice.
 
• Through conscious breathing, one begins to integrate the changes internally that then begin to show up in the ripple within our external experiences. One listens clearer, has a stronger capacity to observe without judgment and begins to drop trivial concerns.
 
• The key to freedom truly is only a breath away! When you breath it out, you don't bring IT with you. The mat is a place to let go and flow. If your breath is flowing on the mat, it starts supporting that flow off of the mat too. Where would you like to see more flow in your life?
 
Deeper Awareness of the Breath
 
How the body responds to yoga breathing: cultivate a deeper listening
 
Conscious Listening: 
As you listen to your breath, you will also begin to listen to your body's signs, ability; learning how to self adjust. Sometimes the breath supports us going deeper into the posture or it allows one to feel stronger and more fluid. Other times, it supports one with backing off and listening to the area that may be slowly revealing new pockets of space in the inner body. The breath connection allows one to gauge where the steady place of freedom lies within a posture. This listening gets sharper with practice. One of the most important aspects of the yoga practice is learning to listen to what the body is speaking. When you know how to listen to your breath as your guide, you will find it much easier to stay at your own pace and flow with grace. 
 
Links:   
The Four Stages of Breathing in Yoga: http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/pranayama/stages.asp
Breathing for Relaxation: http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/1468
http://www.support4change.com/general/breaks/longer/02-listening.html