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The Healing Power of Breathing

Listen to “The Healing Power of Breathing “

Breathing is such an integral part of life that we tend to take it for granted. It is something which our bodies just do, day in and day out, like our hearts beating.

Did you know that over 90% of us use less than 50% of our available breathing capacity? Most of us take shallow breaths, only allowing them to breathe a minimal amount of oxygen into our lungs. This means that we are not fueling our blood and bodies with sufficient energy.

For thousands of years, spiritual seekers, mystics and yogis have used the power of the breath to shift their consciousness. By regulating their breathing, they can control the mind and reach altered states of consciousness.  Yogis and Taoists have long known that breath is our primary source of Chi/Qi/Prana — all names for the primordial energy which permeates all things and collects in higher amounts in sentient beings. They also realise that for most people, breathing is a mostly unconscious process, characterised by its shallowness. However, they discovered that profound healing was possible by merely breathing.

Thankfully, this extensive knowledge of breath has been carefully preserved and passed down from master to disciple for thousands of years and is now experiencing a ‘mainstream renaissance’ here in the West.

Aside from its obvious necessity for physical life, the breath expresses and influences our emotional and mental states. In many ways, the key to expanded awareness lies in first becoming aware of our breathing and bringing its pattern under our conscious control, as breath controls the flow of ‘life force’ (energy) in our body.

In Sanskrit, Prana means breath, life force and vital energy. In yogic practices, Pranayama means expansion of the life force and expansion of the breath. For more than 5000 years, yogis have understood, through direct experience, that expanding the breath would expand life.

Today, Pranayama helps to establish regular breathing patterns to reverse the harmful effects of modern life. The benefits and effects of Pranayama are hard to understand for those who have never experienced them.

Directing the breath into various bodily energy centres can bring about experiences of expanded consciousness and incredible bliss; slow alternate nostril breathing can calm and balance the mind and emotions while strong, oral Pranayama can open new levels of experience and consciousness typically accessible only through hallucinogens or years of meditation practice.

There are various techniques for working with the breath—from traditional Pranayama to breathwork practices such as rebirthing and holotropic. We can utilise breathing’s often-unconscious process to affect our lives physically, mentally, and energetically.

Breath practices can relieve anxiety and tension and promote better integration of the mind, body, and emotions. Unlike medication, breathing techniques do not require a trip to the pharmacy for drugs with questionable side effects.

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