Understanding the importance of our breath is a key part of any successful yoga practice. In my class on the breath, I share lots of information about the physiology of breathing and how yoga’s breathing techniques actually change the body’s inner chemistry.
One key area to understand is cellular respiration, and particularly how oxygen and glucose are metabolized into units of energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is the energy you use to climb a flight of stairs! Apparently our cells have several methods of converting glucose into energy, depending on whether oxygen is available or not. In short, more ATP, or energy molecules, are generated when oxygen is present – 34 molecules to be exact. So when we breathe shallowly, and are not providing as much oxygen to our blood, cells resorts to glycolysis which produces only 2 molecules. So, more oxygen, more energy.
This is a very simplified explanation of something that is far more complex. And it’s important – especially for cancer patients – to understand what’s happening in the body and how we benefit when we engage in yoga practices.
If any medical practitioner or researcher would like to add to this discussion, in layman’s terms, please contact me.
Now let’s all take a big breath!
In my classes I teach the Awareness Practice which involves bringing one’s attention to how the body is feeling on various levels: physical, emotional and psychological. Other teachers may call this the Witness Practice as it cultivates a sense of detached observation. A major component of this practice is the body scan – bringing detailed attention to all parts of the body in a progressive sequence. Below is a wonderful quote about the body scan from Jon Kabot-Zinn’s book Full Catastrophe Living (p. 89).
“When practicing the body scan, the key point is to maintain awareness in every moment, a detached witnessing of your breath and your body, region by region, as you scan from your feet to the top of your head. The quality of your attention and your willingness just to feel what is there and be with it no matter what is much more important than imagining the tension leaving your body or the inbreath revitalizing your body. If you just work at getting rid of tension, you may or may not succeed, but you are not practicing mindfulness. But if you are practicing being present in each moment and at the same time you are allowing your breathing and your attention to purify the body within this context of awareness and with a willingness to accept whatever happens, then you are truly practicing mindfulness and tapping its power to heal.”
‘Just wanted to share. Keep breathing and feel your feet on the ground!