Importance of Breathing in Meditation and Yoga

YogaIn yoga and meditation classes there is always a focus on the sensation of breathing, like “… take some deep belly breaths, notice the belly rising and falling rhythmically… expanding the breath now from the belly into the ribs… feel the ribs move up and out… expanding up into the chest like a wave… feel the chest rise… exhale… feel the air leaving like a wave rushing out…” after some intervals “Allow the breath to regulate unconsciously, focus on the passage of air” Italics are mine.

You may also notice that instructors introduce a pattern of conscious breathing reminders and/or more breathing exercises en route. This is not coincidence!

Sure, it’s calming, but why all this attention to alternate conscious regulated/unconscious breathing?  There is a practical answer.

Truth is, concentrating on the sensation of breathing within the body takes us to the crossroads of where physical sensation meets  mental activity .  Breathing is the perfect “route of least resistance” to begin studying where conscious (thinking about breathing) meets subconscious (allowing breathing to regulate as an unconscious activity).

Another advantage of this switching, is the opportunity of discovering how sensations and the mind are connected, and how this plays out on meditation and yoga.

Sensing bodily sensations during conscious breathing are the prelude to controlling your mind (concentration) by noticing  that every thought, emotion, mental action is accompanied by a corresponding sensation in the body.

Sensation then, is the meeting of mind and body together. Let’s see how this happens.

Although physical, sensation also encompasses one of four mental processes

  1.  consciousness (aware of the sensation)
  2.  perception (labels the sensation , categorizes it ,judges it)
  3.  awareness (sensation is pleasant – I want it… or  unpleasant –  repel it)
  4. reaction (physical reaction or mental reaction)

Therefore, by observing the physical sensations of breathing in mediation, and the breath and body in yoga, we also begin, whether we know it or not, observe the mind!

Peace and abundance to all.

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