Link to this Article: http://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/1249

The Llewellyn Journal

Pranayama for Your Health

This article was written by Carrie Obry
posted under Self-Help

In the work of pranayama, the back is the blackboard, the air comes to write and the mind holds the chalk.
— B.K.S. Iyengar
What is more fundamental to life than breath itself? We do it without as much as a thought, but without it, we would not survive. I recently went to a wellness conference, where I sat in an excellent seminar about stress reduction. The moderator posed a question: “What is the most effective way to calm your body and clear your mind?” The audience replied “breath” so clearly it was as if they were confirming a life-affirming secret.

Echoed by all moderators at the conference is the fact that the mind and body are in no way separate entities. As I see it now, the mind and body form an unending loop—they speak to each other like two people whispering back and forth in a crowded room. They are so interwoven they can even fool each other into getting what they want. If you smile, your body will feel happy physiologically, even if your mind isn’t convinced that you are. And if you breathe deeply, your body and mind will go into a relaxed state, even when stress is crowding in on your life.

As the animating force that expands our capacity for living, breathing is fundamental to the concept of mind/body integration. Once we learn how to control the breath, we know how to control the state of our mind, body and emotions—a pretty powerful concept all around. In the language of yoga, the word for this is pranayama. “Prana” means breath, or life force, and “ayama” means control. Pranayama is rhythmic breath control.

Yoga practitioners believe that with more prana, with increased life force, the more alert and energetic we become. As Jacine Harrington writes in The Beauty of Yoga, with more prana,
"You can think more clearly. Your body is more relaxed, your mind calm. You have a heightened sense of awareness of who you are and a stronger connection between your mind, body and emotions. You are more in tune with your inner self and your higher self. You hear your inner voices and messages more clearly."

I collected a few breath control exercises from The Beauty of Yoga, one of Llewellyn's popular yoga books, to encourage the use of pranayama on a regular basis. Embodying this technique will unify your mind and body and allow you to create an inner refuge where your spirit feels at home.

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