Friday, January 29, 2010

Mind and Breath

"The mind (manas) and the breath (prana) are intimately connected and the activity or the cessation of activity of one affects the other. Hence Patanjali recommended pranayama (rhythmic breath control) for achieving mental equipoise and inner peace."
-B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 49th paragraph of the Introduction.

From the moment I took my first breath, I began to process life on earth. The womb was a protective before-time for me. Sure I must have heard some sounds from the world, but I didn't have any awareness of my needs because I was totally taken care of by my mother's body. However I think I may have already started to process worldly emotions by proxy. But after I was born, things started to change. A breast became important, for it fed me. And my breath supported me simultaneously, and continuously as well as always responding to my needs. My eating habits changed and many other things happened as I grew. My breath has been my constant companion through all aspects of my life, so it knows me better than any being ever could. My breath is jostled by my fear, fueled by my anger, and enhanced by my satisfaction and wellbeing.

My breath has a force of its own. It sustains me whether I pay attention to it or not. This breath sometimes speaks of my sadness, it expresses the emotion in my body. Breath can speak as an amplifier for the emotional and physiological state of the body, and if I listen it can speak to me about my life without my voice saying a word.

The breath can be seen as a two-way communication system reminiscent of the childrens old fashioned telephone game played with two cups or cans connected by a string. Two children hold the cups and pull the string taut. Then one speaks into the cup at one end, and the other child puts the other cup over their ear and listens for what is said. And of course the children can also switch positions where the one who was speaking becomes the listener, and the one who was listening speaks. The breath is similar to the string-and-cups between the kids if one child represents your body and the other is your mind.

So in addition to listening to the breath to discover psychic baggage in your body, you can also consciously affect your breath to calm your nervous system. It's a two-way street. When we train the mind to focus on and control the breath it becomes possible to affect your physical and mental systems profoundly. Peaceful vibes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


YogaforCynics said...

How simple to follow the breath, and yet how difficult...

Elize said...

Well into the yoga journey I realized that, years before, during ballet rehearsals & especially performances, I had been holding my breath...
... just reading your post reminded me to pause, inhale fully & enjoy the breath :) thank you!