The Importance of Breathing in Yoga

The Importance of Breathing in Yoga

The Importance of Breathing in Yoga

This wonderful post was not originally written as a post, but as a make-up assignment from teacher training.  Thank you Beth Dicks for sharing this with us and allowing us to share it with others.  Enjoy~


My first experience at North Main Yoga was in a Karma Yoga class with Brian in 2008.  As instructed, I took my place in tadasana and closed my eyes.  As Brian began instruction on what to do next, I noticed the loud sound of what seemed to be a very large engine running right outside the studio.  I asked myself, “Has a mac truck really parked just outside the studio?  How long will it stay there?”  After a few minutes, I slowly looked around the room to see if anyone else was bothered by this distraction.  Then, I realized that the continuous large engine sound was actually the sound of the class breathing!  In an instant, an irritating distraction turned into a soothing, warm sense of comfort; the ocean sounding breath.  Never before had I experienced breathing of this quality in a yoga class, or anywhere for that matter.

Why is this ocean sounding breath an important aspect of the yoga practice?  My students asked me this question many times.  Before studying Max Strom’s philosophy, my response was:  the breath helps you focus and stay in the present moment, it builds internal heat, and it calms the nervous system.  I have learned from North Main Yoga, another powerful meaning and purpose for deep breathing.   We breathe to heal ourselves and our emotions.  Stress, anxiety, fear, doubt, jealousy and other negative emotions are carried and kept in our bodies in a very physical way.  Tight chest and upper back, tense face and rounded shoulders are evidence of the physical stress.  We keep these emotions close and tight, like a shield we use to guard our hearts.  We all want to appear happy.  We do not want others to know the truth of how our lives are not perfect.  So, we carry a heavy shield and wear a happy mask, we live a lie and are not able to take a complete breath.  Here lies the importance of teaching breath.

When we learn to breathe correctly- deep, full and complete, the healing process can begin.  With a full inhale, the lungs fill completely causing the ribs to expand and the chest to open.  On the exhale, the ribs are drawn together, the core engages as the lungs empty completely.  As the chest opens more and more with every in-breath, we begin to soften and let our guard down.  We soften and open our hearts and breathe with these emotions in a safe place.  With each breath, we may find a little more comfort in the midst of our true emotions.  We practice this breath enough so that we allow forgiveness for ourselves and others.  We come to terms with our faults, put down our shield and our mask.  We are able to acknowledge that life is not perfect, but we can take a deep breath.  Once we find ourselves in this open space, we can breathe freely and know we can come back here by focusing on the breath.  Deep breath allows the entire body to relax itself by getting everything to synchronize.  When movement and breath are combined, this connects the mind and body, which is why the breath is so important in the yoga practice.


Elizabeth Delaney