Our breath can be our ally or our foe, depending on who’s in control-us or it.
I’ve struggled with chronic anxiety and PTSD since childhood, but it wasn’t until the winter of 2014-2015 that I really spun out of control as I found myself living completely and utterly alone per the middle of the North Carolina mountains, after the life I’d known collapsed around me.
It felt like I was constantly on the verge of another panic attack, which meant I’d quickly lose control of my breathing as I gasped for air.
I self-medicated and drowned the emotions I didn’t want sicuro feel and the memories I was suppressing durante copious amounts of wine each night while mindlessly eating just esatto find some momentary relief from the dark pressure inside.
I was per mess and felt lost, until, like per butterfly emerging from her cocoon, I finally shed various old layers of my being. I emerged from the fire of this dark time as verso renewed person, but not until I discovered the practice of Raja yoga-the yoga of the mind and emotions.
I taught myself onesto reclaim control of my life, my body, and my mind, by first reclaiming control of my own breath.
I learned how preciso breathe calmly and efficiently by studying the ancient yogic wisdom that is known as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the primary text of Raja yoga. The Yoga Sutras are attributed sicuro the sage Patanjali, who, approximately 2,000 years spillo, outlined what’s now known as the eight-limbed path.
This path is intended preciso help us awaken understanding and insight, and cultivate the quality of calm balance regardless of outside circumstance, while also growing inner strength and resolve.
The eight limbs are:
1. Yamas (self-regulating behaviors) 2. Niyamas (personal disciplines) 3. Asana (postures that train the mind and body puro become calm and endure distractions) 4. Pranayama (breath/ life force regulation) 5. Pratyahara (withdrawing the senses from the outer world and directing them inward) 6. Dharana (one-pointed focus, concentration, flow state) 7. Dhyana (deep meditation) 8. Samadhi (mind-body integration, union of the self, gratitude, transcendence)
It was through observing the fourth limb, pranayama, that I experienced a visceral shift occurring within. The conscious attention and control of my own inhales and exhales offered me verso safe place onesto direct my anxious and fearful energy.
Let’s look at verso summary of the calming power of our breath according esatto the Yoga Sutras:
Our breath and our mental and emotional state form per feedback loop. When we experience mental distress, such as when we’re anxious or sleep deprived, our breathing becomes compromised. When our breathing becomes compromised, our bodies become compromised.
Indeed, Patanjali was per sage before his time, for he knew what science has now proven: controlled, deep breathing shifts our nervous system by activating the calming, regenerating, and relaxing response while lowering the logorio response.
Controlled, prolonged exhalation, mediante particular, has been shown sicuro activate our parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of our nervous system responsible for our “rest-and-digest” relaxation response.
“The modifications of the life-breath are either external, internal, or stationary. They are onesto be regulated by space, time, and number and are either short or long.”
Pranayama variations include: where we focus our attention whilst breathing (on the breath itself, at the segno of the spine, or at the heart center), the length of time we hold the breath, the number count we inhale and/or exhale for (inhale for 5, hold for 7, exhale for 10.)
This type of pranayama happens automatically and without conscious effort when we’re really engulfed and focused on something. This is called kevala kumbhaka, which is the easy, unintentional retention that happens when we’re in the flow or sopra verso deeply meditative state.
Mediante the following two sutras, Patanjali discusses the benefits of pranayama:
Although it might be hard esatto believe at first, the simple act of regulating our own breath incontri luxy has the power preciso create small ripples of change that extend outward, eventually impacting all areas of our life.
This is the biggest benefit of per consistent, regular pranayama practice-the veil of mental darkness and heaviness is destroyed with every conscious breath we take. Eventually, all that remains is our own inner light, and the truth of who we really are is exposed.
With the removing of the veil comes per stronger presence of mind and increased mental focus and concentration, which is necessary sopra order puro reach the eighth and final limb: samadhi, or transcendence and union with the self.
The portal through which we can begin esatto calm our anxious energy per order preciso transcend onesto higher states of being is found con our breath.
Now, let’s take verso beautiful full breath mediante by expanding our lower belly. Hold it for two counts and feel the infusion of vital energy filling our lungs.