Roots of Breathing Practice

I am in the final stretch of a 9-month pranayama training with Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio. The Sanskrit word prana translates roughly as “life force,” and–ayama means to lengthen, stretch, or extend. As a practice, pranayama is a specific, intentionally induced pattern of breathing that sharpens concentration and brings inner balance. It is one of the eight limbs of yoga and brings you to the doorway of meditation.

As I sat on my meditation cushion this morning, I just happened to see one of the books on my reading list, The Healing Power of the Breath, by two doctors who have used breathing practices with many individuals affected by traumatic events across the world such as earthquakes, tsunamis and even 9/11. Since I'm feeling a bit of burnout myself, I thought it would be a perfect time to start reading this and remind myself of specific practices to help me rejuvenate.

When I read the introduction, I was ecstatic! I just love when I learn how pranayama, chanting or meditation has been used throughout history, especially related to Christianity. This helps me relate the practices to my own upbringing as a Catholic and to the many students who come to me worried that practicing yoga will change their beliefs or go against their religion. The doctors in this book explain that their Breath Moving practice, "was highly developed by medieval Russian Orthodox Christian monks who used it prior to reciting the Jesus Prayer and to attain higher spiritual states. These monks shared their breath secrets to fortify the holy Christian knights who were defending Russia from waves of invaders, and traces of their practices can be found in the training of today's Russian Special Forces."

How amazing is that? If you're interested in learning more about pranayama and meditation, I'll be offering a weekly Meditation + Pranayama class for stress and anxiety at 4:30 pm on Thursdays. I hope you'll join me!

Alyssa Pfennig