Breath: The Aspects of Kundalini Series

“The main problem in the world is stress.  It is not going to decrease- it is going to increase.  If through pranayam the shock can be harnessed, the entire stress and disease can be eliminated.” Yogi Bhajan

The breath is one of the few things we do that can be either completely unconscious and dictated by muscle memory, survival instinct and habit OR it can be completely consciously regulated for particular purposes.  The way we breathe has a powerful effect on how we feel in any given moment.  When we learn to breath more deeply, smoothly, fully and slowly we more easily relax and savor life. 

Prana= Life force  //Yama= Control

So, Pranayams are techniques to control the breath.  By controlling the breath we control our state of mind, emotion and health.  Kundalini Yoga has a deep well of pranayam techniques to try for example,

One of the great things about having a few breath techniques in your yogic toolkit is that breath can really be used at any time, by almost anyone in any situation.  Wherever you are right now…stop and take a long slow breath in through your nose, let your belly relax out as you do …. And then a long slow exhale through your nose, feel yourself sinking down into your chair as you do.  Do you feel more peaceful? Grounded? Or attentive than you did a moment I go?  (I do!) 

Nirmal's Breath Story

Confession time:  I was a reverse mouth-breather.  Whew!  There, I said it!  I remember being on a road trip when I was about 8.  Laying down on the bench seat in our wood-paneled mini van.  And watching my belly as I was breathing.  I noticed that as I was breathing air in my belly sucked in and I felt tightness in my chest and shoulders.  As we continued down the road and I continued to watch my belly all of the sudden I had this thought. “If the air is going IN shouldn’t my belly go OUT to make room for it?”  I tried making my belly move out when I inhaled….but it felt weird.  Also when I was younger my sister used to make fun of me for breathing  loudly through my mouth.  I would try breathing through my nose instead ….but after a few breaths I would feel like I was running out of air and have to take a big gulp of air to catch up.

These incidents stuck in my mind…but I didn’t give them a lot of weight until I started taking lots of yoga classes.  When I began learning the basics of correct breathing patterns I realized my reverse-mouth breathing was not only weird and loud but that it was also the opposite of an ideal breath!  My 8-year-old insight was correct….your belly should expand to make room for the air when you breath in.  (And much to my chagrin my older sister was sort of  right….you should breath through your nose not because it is quieter but because breathing thorough our nose is gentler on your body).  It was many months of practice of yoga and paying attention to my breathe before I started to re-train my body in correct breathing.  Over time I have found a greater ease with a yogic breath and it makes me feel alive, grounded, peaceful and calm. 

Breath work, and your experience of it, continues to change so much as you move forward on your path.  I am still finding newness in my breath of fire…there are still moments where I settle into it in a new way.  There are still insights for me at the end of a long breath hold.  There are still times I feel amazed at the power of pranayam.