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For many people, the breath is something much more than just the purely physical movement of air. It is often described as the energy, life force, cosmic essence, the vital principle that permeates reality on all levels including inanimate objects. Different cultures refer to the same phenomenon but by different names, such as: prana, qi, ki, lung, ruach, spiritus, mana, rouh and pneuma.
In yoga, the breath is considered not only the path of spiritual development, but also as a simple way of staying in good health. In the yogic breathing pranayama, the practices are well described, each with its own purpose – including energizing, cleansing, or relaxing.
Every time we notice our breath or change our breathing pattern to achieve a specific outcome, we are practicing breathwork.
Today, breathwork is the new yoga. It can be found everywhere from therapy sessions to gym classes, but it’s far from new. You can find early indications of conscious breathing in Hindu scriptures dating back hundreds of years, for instance in the Bhagavadgita, composed sometime between the 2nd century BCE and the 2nd century CE.
The Tibetan teachings of Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche that form the basis of the Bon tradition, which considers the breath to be important, are even older, dating back 18,000 years.
Since your body is governed by rhythms – your nervous system picks up the steady flow of air as a cue for safety and adjusts other bodily processes accordingly – you can use this to your advantage.
One way is via a common practice in yoga, in which we breathe in and out to a count. The aim is to find a comfortable length of the breath and, once it becomes easy, the rhythm can be slowed down.
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