Esalen's First Yoga Teacher — Teaching yoga since 1968

Why is breathing so important in Yoga?

Pam Walatka
Breathing is where mind, body and spirit come together.

Yoga means union or yoke--a yoga student learns to yoke mind, body, and spirit together to harness the energy of prana, the life force.

Yoga is the practice of bringing your mind, body, and spirit together in the here and now. Stretching, awareness, and breathing are the core tools of this practice.

Your body is always in the here-and now. Here-and-now is where it lives. Breathing happens in your body here and now.

Spirit exists everywhere at once. There are many different words to describe the universal life-force energy, but whatever you call it, it transcends culture-based definitions, and it transcends place and time. You can tap into it here and now. It is always here because it is always everywhere.

Mind rambles all over the place. Picture something that happened when you were ten years old. Picture Paris. Your mind can move instantly though time and space.

Yoga trains your mind to spend a moment in the here and now.

When you focus your mind on your breathing, you bring your mind into the here and now. You yoke your mind to your body and to spirit.

As a species, we are learning to notice and appreciate the amazingness of being alive. By focusing your mind on your breathing, you can bring the life force into your consciousness.

Bonus benefits
Deep yoga breathing is good for your mind. You can minimize stress by focusing on your mind on your breathing [this is a well-researched fact].

Since the lungs are served by both the conscious and unconscious nervous systems, you can expand your consciousness by expanding your breathing [this is my personal opinion].

Deep yoga breathing is good for your body. When you let your whole torso participate in the movement of your breath, the movement is good for your abdominal organs.

Deep breathing brings in more oxygen and takes out more carbon dioxide. Each deep breath invigorates and cleanses your system. As a fire needs air to burn fuel into heat, metabolism needs oxygen to burn calories into energy.
See also: Yoga Classes