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The Mystery of the Breath

Time for a deep breath. A deep, spontaneous breath is suggestive of our very first breath when we emerged from a watery, maternal, uterine environment. But often the first breath at birth is labored, strained and gasping. The strain imprinted onto the respiratory rhythm may continue for a lifetime. Many have a troubled relationship with their breath. It takes many moons of practice to befriend your breath. We realize that our breath is the most available resource we have, in fact we breathe on average 25,000 times per day.

By the time you finish reading this you will have taken in the vicinity of 100 breaths. But how attuned are you to your breath? We take breathing for granted, but breathing presents real challenges and many of us, in fact most of us, are not efficient breathers. Even describing the respiratory rhythm is difficult. Do you say inhale is an upward or downward movement? On inhale the diaphragm, moves downward but the ribs move upward. Is exhalation a downward movement? On exhalation the diaphragm moves upward but the ribs drop. To practice yoga is to appreciate the mystery of prana and this mystery links us to the power behind the stars and the power behind the circular flow of the ocean’s currents. In pranayama we discover this mystery at the end of inspiration and the end of expiration. Thus pranayama is not about controlling the breath but to be open to the power, the subtlety and strange alchemy of breathing. During states of deep meditation, we discern how our diaphragm is swayed by the earth’s gravitational pull and how our breathing is influenced by an electromagnetic force. Through movement patterns, through listening and sensitivity we come to allow the inherent motion of our respiration to be uncovered. In the way that we each have a unique finger print, each of us has our own natural breath rhythm, our own “breath print”. In breath work, it is never that “one size fits all”. It is up to each of us to discover our inherent breath pattern and then to carefully amplify and deepen our connection to our breath. As we open up to the volume and dimension of our breath, we open up to something much bigger and wider and deeper than ourselves.

Alchemy + Aim