Our whole life is entirely dependent on our breathing, but we rarely give it much thought. The purpose of doing breathing exercises is to steady and harmonize the mind, balance and calm the body and increase the flow of energy. Breathing practice are an important component of a yoga practice and are often practiced as a preparation for meditation or a yoga asana practice, or simply to help one relax and come to a greater state of harmony.
The duration of inhales and exhales throughout the day are usually fraught with irregular patterns and with no constant rhythm. This translates into an imbalance in consciousness. Through breathing practices we can bring balance, calm, and focus to the body and mind.
Prana is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish. It is what keeps us alive. Pranayama is the control of prana through the breath.
Prana flows through thousands of subtle energy channels called ‘nadis’ and energy centers called ‘chakras’. The quantity and quality of prana and the way it flows through these subtle energy channels determines one’s state of mind. If the prana level is high and its flow is continuous, smooth and steady, the mind remains calm, positive and enthusiastic.
Regular practice increases and enhances the quantity and quality of prana, helps to clear blocked energy channels, and results in the practitioner feeling balanced, calm and focused. Practiced consistently prananyama can help bring harmony between the body, mind and spirit, making one physically, mentally and spiritually strong.
In this series we will cover three pranayama practices (Sama Vritti, Dirga Swasam, and Ujjayi) that can help balance, calm and focus the body and mind. We begin with Sama Vritti or Equal Breathing for balancing.
Equal Breathing for Balancing
Equal breathing (called Sama Vritti in yoga, ‘sama‘ meaning even, smooth, flat, equal or same and ‘vritti’ means fluctuations or modifications). So the phrase indicates a smoothing of the fluctuations of the mind into stillness. As its name suggests, it is said to create quality of sameness or balance in the flow of consciousness. Practice equal breathing to help bring the body and mind into balance.
- Come to sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position such as easy pose, placing padding under your seat as necessary.
- Close your eyes and begin to notice your natural breath, not changing anything at first.
- Begin a slow count to four as you inhale. Then also count to four as you exhale. The exercise is to match the length of your inhale and exhale.
- You may experiment with changing the number you count to, just make sure your inhale and exhale stay the same length.
- Continue breathing this way for several minutes.
In the next installment of Breathing Practices that Bring Balance, Calm and Focus to the Body and Mind, Part 2 we will cover the pranayama practice of Dirga Swasam or Complete Breath.