The Power of the Breath

Why do yoga teachers always emphasize the breath? The method of the yoga practice is not simply doing one pose after the other. There’s more to it than the poses. A crucial element of the yoga method is the breath or rather synchronizing breath with physical movement. That way we shift the whole experience to an entire new level. Here’s why we do that and why the breath is so important and powerful.

1. Breath is life

Whoever witnessed the very first breath of a baby will agree that it’s a miracle. It’s stunning, amazing and deeply moving to see how a new soul takes its first breath. It marks the beginning of a new life. In the same way the last breath of life is a miracle too. It’s when we leave this life and this body. It marks the end of a lifetime.

From this perspective life is what happens between these two breaths, the first and the last breath. When we think about it, we can live for quite a few hours or even days without food and water, but how long can we live without breathing? Maybe 5 minutes at the most. 

Simultaneous to the perspective of life as the time between first and last breath we can think of the yoga practice as the time between the first ujjayi breath on the mat and the last. What happens between them and how mindful we use this time is up to us – in life and in practice.

2. Breath is the mirror of our mind and emotions

Our breath reflects our state of mind. It is like a mirror through which we can look at ourselves and gain a deeper understanding about our emotional and mental state. That way we can use the breath as a tool for self-observation and self-study. We can use it not only on the yoga mat but also in everyday life to see how the breath expresses what’s going on inside of us. Like for example, when we come home from work and find ourselves sighing a lot, or in practice when we go into a deep backbend and suddenly start to panic breathe very quickly. 

3. Breath is the doorway to the present moment

Breath immediately connects you to the here and now. Whatever might be going on in your life and in your mind, you will always have the chance, to pause for a second and consciously take a big inhale and exhale. This is the simplest mindfulness technique and it is always available to you, because you have your breath with you wherever you go. Whenever you feel caught up in thoughts and confusion, worries or fear, whenever you feel like thoughts are hunting you rather than serving you, remember your breath! Start noticing the quality of your breath and it will immediately bring you into the present moment. In the present moment there can be no worries. They are only a projection of your thoughts into the future. So staying with your breath in the here and now can be extremely relieving and healing.