23 Mar

The more I learn about the breath in health and in sickness, the more it humbles me.
Long before modern science existed, sages and yogis mentioned the breath or “prana”
as an essential energetic factor for our well-being.

So often, we forget that breath is always present – in the here and now. It is a sensitive
aspect of our system. It can be described as “something that flows continuously from
somewhere inside us, filling us and keeping us alive: it is vitality.”¹ Prana is found in all
organisms from lower to higher living organizations. One of my teachers calls it “creative
vibration.” It refers to “a kind of vital energy, or a subtle life force”².

By reading old Indic texts, I learned that prana is something we can access through our
conscious mind. When prana comes into our consciousness, we can learn to focus on it
and regulate our state of mind. Different breathing techniques in yoga are a means to
help prana freely flow within us and to unite the division of what is inside and what is

Pranayama, as it is called in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (ca. 400 CE), means breath
control. Pranayama consists of two parts: prana and ayama. Ayama means length,
extension and expansion. In chapter 2, verse 52, Patanjali recommends focusing on the
breath in order to move toward full stillness. G. Feuerstein comments in this context:
“Breath control interiorizes the consciousness further, inducing a peculiar condition of
inner luminosity…”³

Being able to remove the chatter in our minds brings into being our inner light and
harmony. This ancient text advises the student to do pranayama in order to find one
pointedness of the mind, creating balance of the two sides of the brain, calming the
nervous system. It is a state of mind which relates to the light within, to the true Self.
With regular practice and commitment, long and smooth breathing prepares one for
meditation and creates overall well-being, mindfulness and compassion toward self and
others. Translated into a more Western language, there can be many valuable benefits
connected with pranayama. It may decrease anxiety and depression as well as lower or
stabilize blood pressure. Moreover, it may increase oneʼs energy level, relax muscle
tension and decrease stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Breath is the means to find unity of body, mind and spirit, creating well-being which
unveils the light within, freeing constrictions and opening the gateway to experience
wholeness and authenticity.

1. Desikachar, T.K.V., 1999, The Heart of Yoga. Developing a personal practice. Rochester, VM: Inner
Traditions International.
2. Desikachar, Kausthub assisted by Liz Bragdon and Chase Bossart, The Yoga of Healing: Exploring
Yogaʼs Holistic Model for Health and Well-Being: An Introduction. Journal of Yoga Therapy, vol. 15,
3. Feuerstein, Georg, (1989), The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali. A New Translation and Commentary.
Rochester, VM: Inner Traditions International.