“Controlling the breath, and thus calming the nerves, is a prerequisite to controlling the mind and the body.” Swami Rama
If you have been struggling to achieve a meditative state, you may want to begin your meditation practice with pranayama, the yogic practice of scientific breath work.
Years ago, I found myself creating a Loving Kindness Meditation CD because I kept recommending meditation to my clients but none of them could manage much success unaided. You can purchase this CD or download the audio at Sadhana Catalog at this link.
In recent years, I created a series of FREE videos to teach pranayama, the science of yogic breath work. You can watch the videos for a sequence I call Eight Minutes to Inner Peace at this link.
It’s interesting to me to observe how my sincere desire to teach natural healing remedies has led from one innovation to another.
I initially created the FREE videos for Eight Minutes to Inner Peace because I had a client with uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Despite using heavy multiple medications, his blood pressure was still so bad that he eventually experienced severe kidney problems to the point he had to get up every morning at 4 a.m. to drive to a kidney dialysis center for treatment.
He felt so unwell he had been unable to maintain his work as a barber, thus causing severe financial strain on his family, which included a wife and several children.
Working one on one with him I realized that one of the core issues behind his high blood pressure was his inability to breathe properly.
So I taught him pranayama, the science of yoga breathing, and then recorded myself practicing the breathing exercises so he could follow along at home.
If nothing else, I thought he might be able to feel less hopeless on the lonely drive to the dialysis center in the wee hours of the morning, and be able to calm his mind during the lengthy treatment.
As time passed, I taught the Eight Minutes to Inner Peace pranayama breathing exercises to a wide range of clients:
- People suffering from anxiety and panic attacks
- Those who felt bereft and depressed
- Smokers who were trying to give up cigarettes and cigars, as most had lost the capacity for normal breathing
- Chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal burnout exhaustion people wanting more energy
- Psychotherapists looking for non-verbal methods to release pent-up emotions
- COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients struggling for oxygen
- Athletes looking to build their power and endurance
- And of course, yogis dedicated to expanding their personal practice
I had come to love pranayama during the course of my six 200-hour and one 500-hour yoga teacher trainings.
As a serious student, over the past 21 years teaching yoga I have always sought out the best teachers and traveled all over the country to improve myself whenever I could.
Although I have always enjoyed practicing what most people think of when they consider yoga – the postures themselves – as time passed I noticed how I could rapidly shift into a state of internal bliss simply through pranayama.
We true yogis may spend 20 to 30 minutes controlling our breath through pranayama, but I knew that if I told my clients they would need to spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting and breathing, they might conclude they wouldn’t have time and miss out on the profound benefits.
I wanted to be able to teach my clients how they can shift out of severe anxiety, depression, hopelessness, pain and panic in a mere matter of minutes.
When you know you can make yourself feel better in a very short period of time, you rediscover your power over your internal states.
You know you can make yourself feel better anytime, anywhere for FREE.
Meanwhile, I continued to explore multiple meditation techniques for my own personal benefit.
And ultimately I developed a personal practice of pranayama before meditation, especially first thing in the morning when I wake up.
“When the powers of the intellect and the heart are harmoniously blended, this is dhyana (meditation),” B.K.S. Iyengar wrote in Light on Pranayama: The Yogic Art of Breathing.
“All creativity proceeds from it, and its good and beautiful results benefit mankind.”
Indeed over the years I have concluded that I personally write best when I begin with prayer and meditation. As I pray and meditate, suddenly whatever it is I need to write spring magically into mind and I can open my laptop and the words start pouring out as if I’m simply taking dictation.
Now here’s why breathing exercises may help you achieve a deeper state of meditation much more quickly.
When you sit to meditate, you may notice initially that your mind roams all over the place.
If you begin your meditation practice with breathing exercises, you will notice your mind becoming more still.
How does this happen?
In yogic theory, you have koshas, also known as sheathes:
Your spiritual body or anandamayakohsa, literally translated as the body of bliss, controls your mind, or vijnanamayakoha.
Your mind, or vijanamayakosha, controls your emotions, also called your anamayakosha.
Your emotions, or anamayakosha, control your energy body, also known as your pranamayakosha.
Your energy body, or pranamayakosha, controls your physical body, also known as the annamaya kosha, which literally translates as the body of food.
Simply put, your breath is quite literally the bridge between your mind and body.
As you regulate your breath, you balance the two sides of your nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system that responds to stress and the parasympathetic nervous system that allows you to relax.
“Steadiness of mind and breath interact and makes the intellect steady too,” B.K.S. Iyengar wrote in Light on Pranayama: The Yogic Art of Breathing.
As you regulate your breath, you notice your mind slipping naturally into a meditative state.
If you are new to meditation I recommend practicing Eight Minutes to Inner Peace pranayama breathing exercises first and then allowing your mind to fall quiet.
“Breath awareness is an essential part of meditation,” Swami Rama wrote in Science of Breath: A Practical Guide.
“The most well-established schools teach breath awareness before leading a student towards advanced techniques of meditation.
“The mind is in the habit of identifying itself with the objects of the world, and it does not become aware of internal states as long as it remains in its dissipated condition.”
At home I either sit up in bed or I sit on the floor on a yoga bolster to practice Eight Minutes to Inner Peace and then meditate.
I use the FREE Insight Timer app on my iPhone to time myself as I work through the various pranayama techniques and then meditate.
In so doing, I draw my awareness within and rediscover the power within.
If you want further assistance with instruction in pranayama, meditation or natural healing, please call 678-612-8816 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment today.