Yoga is the bridge. Between mind and body. Between outside and inside. Between being and becoming.
Yoga and Ayurveda are underpinned by the understanding that all being is based on energy. Blocked or disturbed energy flow manifests in psychological and/or physical disorders. We are literally and figuratively ‘out of breath’: the Sanskrit word Prana means breath, soul, life, vitality, and describes both the physical breath and the body’s subtle life energy, which can be best felt through the breath. This energy conditions all the functions of body and mind including the development of different states of consciousness. Prana also plays an important role in Ayurvedic nutrition and medicine.
Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath to bring together body and mind. The breath is the source of our Prana, the vital life force that connects body and mind. The way we breathe expresses our physical and mental state: when our breath is fast, for instance, we reveal nervousness or exertion; shallow breathing indicates pain and tension, and so on. On the other hand, this also means that our breath can influence our body and psyche. Unlike the heart, lungs have no muscles of their own and depend on the diaphragm, the intercostal muscles, the muscles in the neck, and the abdominal muscles to function optimally. To use our breath consciously and as efficiently as possible, we therefore need good chest and abdominal mobility, which is why this is as essential a part of Yoga as the breathing exercises themselves. When a Yoga instructor invites us to consciously inhale and exhale, it is because breathing is part of the practice.