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Who am I? Part 2 - Breath

We talked in our previous blog about the 5 Koshas, these are the different layers or bodies. Our first kosha was the Annamaya Kosha, our physical body, we also looked at Maslows heirarchy of needs in relation to the physiological needs. In this blog, we will focus on the second of the koshas.

The 5 Koshas

The second kosha is Pranamaya Kosha. This kosha is the first of the subtle bodies, you could call it our energetic signature.

Perhaps you can recall sensing a person even though you hadn't physically seen them yet, you felt their essence.

Think about how you feel with different people or how you can tell what mood someone is in by the energy they are transmitting, this is the vital energy body.

For those of you who practice yoga you may have experienced connection with this layer during relaxation when you may have experienced expansion in the head or maybe your heart. It is often through the breath that we are able to feel this and can begin to feel a sensation of the breath flowing in and out without effort deep into our body.

Close your eyes for a few moments and just concentrate on breathing in and out, seeing if you can expand your abdomen on an in breath and breathe out fully on an out breath. When you return to the room, notice how you feel. More alive, energised, vital?

Prana means life-force and this enters the body through food, water and breath, and yoga breathing practices are called 'pranayama'.

Let's have a look at some interesting facts about breathing:

  • The average person takes 16 breaths a minute, 960 per hour, 23,040 a day, 8,409,600 a year and if we live to age 80 around 672,768,000 in a lifetime (resting rate)

  • Breathing rate can increase to 40-60 times a minute during exercise

  • You can only stay alive for 3 minutes without breathing

  • Every part of your body needs oxygen to survive

  • Your lungs provide oxygen and expel carbon dioxide

  • Your body sends signals to the brain about oxygen levels and in turn the brain sends signals to the muscles involved in breathing to control your breathing rate

  • The in breath is active and the out breath passive, relaxation happens on an out breath

  • Many people reverse breath, pulling the abdomen in when breathing in

  • Breathing in through the nose rather than the mouth; helps fight infection, absorbs more oxygen, helps maintain body temperature and helps brain function

How do we breathe?

A signal is sent to the diaphragm through nerves causing the dome shaped muscle to flatten, pushing out the lower rib cage and abdomen, this expands the space in the chest and causes air to be pulled into the lungs through the nose or mouth. the muscles used to breathe in then relax, air is pushed out of the lungs and the diaphragm moves upwards once more. Breathing is an automatic process but it can be controlled and can also be affected by emotions.

Breath and Emotions - feeling safe

If we are scared or surprised we might momentarily hold our breath which can induce feelings of panic or giddiness. By contrast think about how the breath feels when you are at rest, perhaps you take some deep sighing breaths and the breath becomes slower and deeper. Take note to be aware of your breath over the next few days and notice how it changes with your mood.

Just as our breath can be affected by our emotions, so can our emotions be affected by our breath. Yoga techniques called pranayama can help us to work with the breath to bring about a desired effect in the body and mind. Children are introduced to breath work as part of the Yoginis Yoga programmes through breath based postures such as Bumblebee and Lion and Level 2 of the Approved Coach Training programme focuses on teaching children to work with the breath.

Maslows Heirarchy of Needs 1954

Deep breathing helps to stimulate the vagus nerve (this connects the brain stem to the body and interfaces with the parasympathetic nervous system). Anxiety, depression, migraine, addiction, heart disease and other conditions can be improved by stimulation of the vagus nerve. This is linked to the second needs in Maslows Heirarchy of Needs 1954 'safety and security'.

Teaching children how to use the breath to control emotions creates resilience to cope with moments of difficulty during their lives.

The Pranamaya Kosha is active from our first breath to our last.

Here are some ways Yoginis Yoga works to promote efficient breathing:

  • We focus on asana which help to correct poor posture exaggerated by modern lifestyle, this helps to keep the breathing organs and muscles functioning fully

  • We encourage children to be aware of the breath, to breathe more deeply and to deter reverse breathing

  • We teach breathing techniques to call on in moments of stress or difficulty

  • We encourage nose breathing

  • We make yoga fun and accessible for all

Next time we will look at the third layer, the Manomaya Kosha.......................

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