LEARNING TO BREATHE WITH YOGA
“Ensure to exhale and inhale slowly,
Smoothly, and then
Direct the mind toward the focus.”
Professor T. Krishnamacharya, ?loka 25 in Yog?njalis?ram
These words, in a poem by Professor T. Krishnamacharya, highlight the utmost importance of the breath not only in yoga practice but also in everyday life. For him, yoga was not limited to physical postures, but it covered every aspect of human life.
One of the key advantages of a system like yoga, which is several thousand years old, is that it views the human system as a holistic entity. There are many tools in the healing process, and postures are (it is sometimes said) merely the tip of the iceberg. Some of the most profound tools in yoga include meditation, sound, visualization, and of course conscious breathing regulation.
Another advantage of yoga is that it empowers people in the healing process. Traditionally, rather than being a passive recipient of treatment, the yoga student practices on his/her own and is thus primarily responsible for his/her own evolution. This makes the healing process very comprehensive and therefore extremely specific to the individual: when I am asked which kind of yoga I teach, I usually respond “Your yoga”. Like a suit cut out to fit your body or a shoe made to order, your yoga practice is uniquely designed for you. The role of the teacher is to guide students as to which tools to use at a certain point in time and how to apply these tools in an appropriate manner. Mindful self-enquiry is encouraged. Feedback to the teacher is essential.
Several things are to be considered in a yoga program to help you quit smoking. In the yoga tradition we would summarize them with two Sanskrit words: “Hetu”, which means “causes”, and “Heyam”, or the problem itself and its symptoms. For example, shortness of breath is a frequent symptom in smokers and non-smokers alike. Yet the way it manifests may vary: one person may have a short inhalation, another one a short exhalation; one may have a strong abdominal breath, the other a good inhalation in the upper part of the lungs, etc… Physical and psycho-emotional conditions should also be considered. These variations call for necessary adjustments in techniques. Using certain techniques of breathing regulation combined with other tools can help one to gain the ability to breathe more deeply. In yoga, breath is regarded as the most accessible manifestation or our pra?a, or life force. “Life begins with an inhalation and ends with an exhalation.”
We all have the potential to expand our breath. Why should we expand our breath, you may ask? The list of physiological, mental and emotional benefits is very long: improved digestion, positive effects on the cardiovascular system, better blood circulation, increased alertness, and of course a calmer mind, are some of the benefits which can be highlighted. Many people also report better sleep with the support of breathing techniques.
If you wish to know more about how a yoga program can be tailored in order to help you stop smoking, please don’t hesitate to contact me.