By Siri Kirin Kaur/Kathe Forrest
When I first took yoga classes in my 20s, I learned that you could help areas of the body relax and be free from stress by directing the breath with the mind. You could actually will the breath to move anywhere you wanted with a simple exhalation.
If you have a pain or discomfort in your lower back, for example, you inhale and exhale and direct the breath to the back, and almost immediately there is a difference. This proved to be true time and time again. I continue to teach this technique using the power of the breath.
We talk about breath and breathing, and we talk about prana within the breath. Are they the same? No, prana is different. Prana is the energy of the breath. It is the force of the breath. It is the spark and soul of the breath.
If we do alternate nostril breathing for high blood pressure, and our blood pressure drops, is it because we are regulating our breathing and slowing the blood circulation down, or is it that spark within the breath (the prana) that controls the flow?
I believe and have witnessed that it is both. Scientifically, we are changing the rate of the breath, and the life force mediates between the physical body and the vital body of the heart. This enables a better flow and in the case of blood pressure, drops it by redistribution.
In teacher training, we studied how prana is vital to understanding our breathing.
“Prana is the motion and the coding of energy through the realms of the mind and body…Prana divides itself into different frequencies or different types of motion within the areas of the body. These are called the vayus.”
–Level 1 Aquarian Teacher Training manual
This means that the breath and prana move and flow through the body and into all the areas of the body to balance not only the body itself but also the mind and emotions.
Breathing is both a process that happens unconsciously or automatically, and a process that can be controlled consciously through the will of our minds.
We learn how prana works and how to free this energy by practicing pranayama. We also study the science of pranayama to have an understanding of the prana and to bring ourselves to a neutral state and away from disease.
Managing our energies through pranayam allows us to maintain and improve our well-being, to provide the energy needed to meditate deeper into our existence, and to calm the inner winds that blow our minds from one thought to another. The key to controlling your mind is in controlling the breath, which frees the mind.
“The tie between us and God is the ray of light called Prana. That’s why the human is called the Pranee—the one who lives by the Grace of Prana.”
Pranayama teaches us energy management. The key to health is to keep our prana working in harmony. When it is imbalanced, the parts of the body tend to lose their equilibrium.
There are many different techniques to learn and to study, including alternate nostril breathing, segmented breathing, breathing through one nostril, either left or right, long deep breathing, and breath of fire. Any of these practices can be powerful if practiced on a regular basis and done correctly.
Alternate Nostril Breathing, however, is the first and foremost one to learn. The benefits are enormous. The left and right hemispheres of the brain are balanced. It purifies the nadis or energy channels within us and brings calmness to the spirit—a deep sense of well-being.
Using the rhythm and depth of the breath we can affect and manage different energy states of health, consciousness and emotion. The mind follows the breath.
Siri Kirin Kaur/Kathe Forrest is the author of The 40 Day Sadhana Companion. This is a journal for a 40-day practice of meditation and yoga. The journal has been translated into Spanish and soon to be in Italian. Kathe teaches in Brenham, Texas, and her seva is working with the local Hospice organization. The book is available here.