One’s breath accurately reflects what is happening within us, and through it, we can influence our psychological states, better control our emotions and achieve a harmonious expression of ourselves.
Awareness of Natural Breathing
The mere awareness of breathing changes the nature of our problems. Indeed, we are then under the control of our higher brain mechanism that is normally managed by the primary instinctive brain, also called the reptilian. Breathing is the only mechanism that the body can both involuntarily and voluntarily control. When voluntary, it is under the control of a higher part of the brain, the cortex. With it, we make our way in the mass consciousness through informal reflexes and conditioning.
Without trying to slow down or changing the rhythm, one needs to first simply be attentive to the natural breath. Gradually, we come in friendship with our own breathing. An ally of every moment, it becomes the key to an intimate knowledge of the self and can allow a sufficient distance from the events of life. Through the breath, one also gains access to a major dimension of yoga, prana, the essence of life, the flow of energy that permeates all creation.
Change the Process for Better Breathing Relaxation (Pranayama)
Breathing consists of two phases: inhalation is the active phase, while expiration remains passive. By extending the expiration, one facilitates release.
Full breathing, with equality between the two phases, is also a relaxation factor because it increases the volume of breathing, improves gas exchange in the blood and promotes “cellular respiration”. Thanks to increased vitality and better health, we can be more confident and our participation in daily activities becomes fluid and positive.
There is also the soothing pranayama; inspiration from the mouth, similar techniques, and Shital shitakari, followed by exhalation through the nose.
Balancing pranayama called shodhana nadi, alternate breathing, contributes another way to relax by balancing the flows in both nostrils and swaras. They are Ida and Pingala, the dual aspects of energy which have multiple connections, both in physical terms (the body’s right and left sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and the left and right hemispheres of the brain) and in psychological behavior (extraversion and introversion, apathy and activism, female and male).
To develop a pranayama and benefit from it, certain conditions are essential; let’s explore a few.
- Conduct a regular washing of the nose, called jala neti. This cleans the nostrils and stimulates the control center, Ajna chakra, located behind the forehead at the height of the dot between the eyebrows.
- Never practice pranayama after meals. Enjoy a quiet moment where you will not be disturbed and if possible, early in the morning.
- The sitting posture should be comfortable, back straight, head in the axis of the spine.
- Installing oneself in the correct posture, with eyes closed, first review the different parts of the body (rotation of consciousness in a sitting position in a logical progression). If necessary, make a circuit several times to relax completely. Then listen to the whole body; in its stillness, you may move spontaneously. You may perceive a sensation of great earnestness that comes over you gradually, and become stable and dense as a statue. This technique, called kaya sthairyam, is a meditation on the body. Pre-pranayama, it guarantees all the later benefits.
- Never go beyond your limits, it’s safer to be a little guarded. Otherwise, internal tensions inevitably will condense, and instead enjoying the practice, one will be even tenser. The technique is harmless; it’s how we approach it that is the key.
- When you’re done, stay motionless for a few moments to soak up the effects of the exercise, distribute energy throughout the body and enjoy the mental tranquility.
- Pranayama techniques can bring internalization without conflict. It is an ideal way to introduce a time of meditation that allows one to gain in depth perception. Then choose the medium that suits you: the practice of an “Antar Mouna,” observation, “Ajapa japa” meditation, or reciting a mantra.
Sound, a Gateway to Relaxation
Sound vibrations act on the innermost sphere, the psychic body. Yoga has always built and maintained the tradition of mantras, the vibrations of power discovered by the Rishis, sages and enlightened beings of ancient India. The sound “Om” is considered paramount and universal; it represents transcendence.
By singing or pronouncing mentally, it connects one to the source of one’s being. This link provides comfort and illuminates the meaning of life, which induces a current of indirect mental relaxation. Moreover, the sound has an immediate impact on the brain itself, since harmonizes waves from different brain regions.
Other sound media are also used. Thus, ujjayi respiration is often used in yoga therapy. This is when the breath rustles in the throat, narrowing slightly in the glottis, like the snore of a baby, almost inaudible to the outside. By focusing attention on the sound of breath, one acquires a very relaxing experience at all levels of personality.
Another pranayama, Bhramari, known to soothe anxiety, installs a resonance in the skull, like the buzzing of a bee. Finally, note that breathing has its own mantra, “so-ham“. If our perceptions are subtle enough, we can find this out through Ajapa japa meditation, with each passage of the breath in a psychic flow.
This is the ultimate relaxation technique, the flagship of Satyananda Yoga. It installs, in several steps, a progressive kind of relaxation: physical; the rotation of consciousness in the body, or pranic energy; rotation of breath; emotional, rotating in opposite senses and emotions; mental rotation of images in a quick and symbolic journey. This topic is not expanded on here since it has already been addressed in Health Yoga.
Balance is the Watchword of Yoga and the Guarantor of the Trigger
By safeguarding inner harmony, we can achieve a lasting state of relaxation. Generally, we come to yoga when we are lost in one way or another and are looking in practice a way to regain stability.
Techniques, of course, help us, but to prevent the imbalance would be better! Therein lies the secret of yoga: in daily life, promote a balance between the seemingly contradictory modes of expression: to be both active and relaxed; to be passive and watchful; outgoing and self-conscious; creative and logical; imaginative and realistic.
Moreover, the human being operates on three main levels: instinct, emotion, and cortex, the seat of reasoning, anticipation, and intuition. Maintaining a state of peace requires installing and maintaining a fair coexistence between these facets of personality, which are often in conflict.