Today I feel strong. As I walk to the front of my mat in yoga class I feel steady and sure. I have my breath.
Prana. Chi. Life force.
So little is taught about breathing. I guess since it just sort of happens we don’t really pay much attention to it. Until we can’t breathe “normally” anymore. Unless we grew up with asthma or allergies. But mostly it’s just there.
If we do pay attention to the breath we can change every system in the body. We can balance the mind, stoke digestive fires, cleanse the blood and overall awaken the physical form.
There was an Ayurveda study done in India on obese subjects. One group was placed on a diet specifically for their individual constitution. The other group was given pranayama – a specific breath to be done a requisite number of times – 30 minutes before each meal.
The group that deliberately breathed lost significant amounts of weight.
A personal friend of mine has been experimenting with the same phenomenon. He has been practicing various forms of pranayama throughout the day – occasionally switching it up to see what difference it makes. He continues to eat and imbibe as always, his activity level has remained the same, and he has lost weight. He also reports an overall sense of well-being.
The breath he uses is different than the one used in the study. The amount of time he breathes consciously differs as well. But the results are very similar.
Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga. It’s easily overlooked outside of the classroom. It’s often forgotten inside the classroom. And it’s practically non-existent in daily life as a practice.
Prana is life force, like Chi in Chinese medicine, it works with the breath, but it is not the breath. Prana is in every living thing. We receive prana from the food we eat, the sun, the air and certainly from breathing. Throughout most days we are leaking prana, giving it away to negative thoughts, anger, jealously. We are squandering Life Force. Losing. Life. Force.
All one has to do to get it back is breathe. Consciously.
Here is the breath used in the Ayurveda study. Try it. Twice a day. 5 minutes each time. Start there. Not for weight loss – although that may be a happy side effect – but for Life.
Naadhi Shodhana – alternate nostril breathing.
Make a fist with the right hand. Extend the thumb and last two fingers. The thumb and fingers rest lightly on the nose, just above the nostrils so very little pressure or movement is needed to close each side.
Take a deep breath in through the nose. Close the right nostril with the thumb.
Exhale through the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril.
Exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Close the right nostril.
Continue with this process for 5 minutes. Finish by exhaling through the right nostril. Place both hands in the lap, close the eyes briefly – maybe meditate for five minutes – then return to your normal routine.
Other ways to increase life force:
– Eat a mostly organic, plant based diet
– Exercise with intention and presence
– Be present. Thoughts of the future or past are normal, but too much time spent in either place robs you of precious life force than can be used right now.
– Cultivate compassion. Anger, jealously, regret, hate all deplete prana. When you catch yourself enveloped in any of these strong emotions, breathe.
Just breathe. Consciously. Often. Inhale gratitude. Exhale love.