Yoga in the west is ever-growing with attention to embracing more than just asana practice, the third of the 8 limbs. Wellness trends of 2018 show us that focusing on the breath is gaining great attention as both novice and seasoned yogis alike are learning and refining this rather powerful tool. In the practice of yoga we say that we need a one-pointed focus to be able to come to the present moment, and whether we use mantra, healing sound, aromatherapy, chanting, or breath, it is ultimately the focus on the breath that takes the crown as the greatest of all these tools. Breath allows us to access awareness (blogposts on awareness and attention will be topics in February, stay tuned) and is considered the foremost tool because we can always tune in to the breath, it is always with us. We can focus on the breath in every aspect of our yoga practice. Here are some examples:
1. Use focusing on breath as the foundation of a meditation practice – in yoga we say that “the breath is the home-base of the wandering mind.”
2. Focus on the breath in asana practice, to deepen the experience of the pose we focus on the breath to see where does that take take our awareness, where are we holding unnecessary tension, where is our body opening, what comes up for us to learn when our breath allows us to be more present.
3. The art of breathing is the foundation of a pranayama practice: There are hundreds of pranayamas, breathing exercises, to be learned in yoga. They allow us to strengthen our cardiorespiratory system, build lung capacity, affect bold pressure, heart rate, make the respiratory system more resilient, and most importantly cultivate a refined connection of mind and body. For more on pranayama, see Essential Yoga Practice: Your Guide to the New Yoga Practice With Essential Oils
4. Apply the habit of finding refuge in breath awareness throughout the day – this is how we take our yoga practice “off the mat,” and into our daily life. Our breath mirrors our state of mind, so to steady your breath will allow you to steady your mind. This comes in handy when the mind is stressed or overwhelmed. To be able to do this is a refinement of a true yogi, aiming for the goal of being able to stay present while life revolves around you, so that you get to appreciate and learn from what is happening and thus to have an opportunity to evolve based on how you learn to control your reaction to life unfolding. Working from a breath-centered practice can help to dissolve the habits that become our obstacles to learning new habits that serve us better. Holding back from habitual reaction by taking time to take a deep breath, allows the body to soften, creating clear pathways in the subtle energy channels of the body. Then the life force can flow freely, unobstructed, and decisions may come with clarity, from an unhurried reaction. The results may be more positive, though intangible, yet at times rather noticeable. Feeling more sure, acting from a positive outlook radiates a healthy mind and body connection, and the prana, life force comes from one’s true nature.
So how does focusing on the breath really work? Conscious breathing activates the diaphragm and stimulates the vagus nerve, effectively shifting the body from sympathetic, anxiety filled overdrive to the parasympathetic relaxed stage. Using specific breathing exercises, one can affect personal chemistry and well-being, and even take a shortcut to meditative states. When we learn to control our breath, we can ease anxiety by turning our attention inward and access our intuition and true nature.
Aromatherapy allows is to enhance using breath as a tool in the following ways: Essential oils like eucalyptus, ravinsara, cardamom, laurel, fir, myrrh, will open the respiratory tract and allow us deeper breathing. Essential oils like peppermint will support wake up the mind as well as support the opening of respiratory channels. As you focus on breath you can use aromatherapy to calm and soothe, energize, or assist in a myriad of ways to help you address challenges you might be experiencing. For example, if honest communication may be difficult, use lavender together with pranayama to bring light and awareness to your communication patterns. If you are feeling rushed or have anxious feelings, use a citrus oil such as wild orange to help you ease the pressure you are placing on yourself. Breath paired with intentional aromatherapy is a powerful tool.
A Simple Breathing Exercise:
Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet, uninterrupted place. Apply a drop of essential oil from the above mentioned suggestions, to your hands, and bring your hands into Lotus mudra, at your heart. Using this “personal diffuser,” take a deep breath. (If you want access to pure essential oils, please reach out to us). Notice the depth of your breath, the tension that you hold, the places your breath “goes.” Notice how your body begins to quiet from just one deep breath and how in turn, your mind begins to quiet. Continue with slow deep breathing for several minutes. Every time your mind begins to wander, come back to your breath. This is a practice of using the focus on your breath to help deter the habit of your mind from always racing. With practice, you will find less tendency of the racing mind in your daily life. And, when the overwhelming aspect of the mind’s scattered habit reappears, simple return to this simple breathing exercise. “Breathing is the new meditation” because it is accessible and effective! We would love to hear about your experiences with breath work and aromatherapy. What essential oils work for you? What is your favorite pranayama?
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