When I began the practice of yoga, I recall specifically thinking that the introductory bikram standing deep breathing and closing breath of fire were the most challenging exercises. I found myself wanting to rush through the breathing exercises as my neck seemed strained in the standing portion; I was seemingly distracted by savasana when I wasn’t able to accomplish the goal of pumping the naval in the closing breath. Over time I began to notice that as my practice deepened, I understood the important benefits of breathing that brought my attention to improved awareness and relaxation to carry out the more rigorous aspects of practice. I’ve now transitioned to being cognizant when breathing. I practice at the start of a yoga class or find time during my day to engage in a pranayama breathing exercise (when training for a run, bike, swim, etc my capacity to perform improves substantially if I simply get in tune with my heart rate and focus on breath as part of the warm up). During my teacher training quest, I wanted to do more research and found that there are many resources that discuss the theory/philosophy, benefits, and importance of regular pranayama breathing. To obtain a basic understanding, I read in http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/219 that the definition of Pranayama includes: Prana is the life force energy and yama represents the ability to control and lengthen the breath/energy. When searching for the benefits of pranayama breathing, the information was endless though the following ideas stood out as crucial components I’d share as a teacher: increases oxygen capacity/metabolic rate and improves digestion/elimination, mental relaxation, decreases high blood pressure, relieves irritability, detoxification/clarification, and overall exercise of the nervous/respiratory/circulatory system. Ironically I didn’t realize that in my professional teaching of deep relaxation for a variety of mental health conditions that I was utilizing pranayama practice – often focusing on breathing from the belly (dyaphramatic) rather than the chest to calm the nervous system, finding a comfortable environment, tuning into mindfulness while in comfortable the seated position, and many more basics to regular focused breath. I’m excited to add a whole new level of awareness to my teaching both for personal yoga and professional practice. While people at times seem to dismiss the importance of deep breathing, it’s more difficulty to challenge when shown the benefits through centuries of practice. Viewing videos are quite helpful for me as information sinks into my memory once I visualize the lesson being taught. It was therefore exciting to see versatile options for pranayma at www.mindbodygreen coupled with many more youtube.com options that I’ll be able to share with others in the teaching practice. While not surprising, I noticed that many of the plant-based lifestyle pioneers and athletes (Rip Esseltyn via Engine2diet.com, Branden Brazier on myvega.com to name a few) express the importance of breathing, meditation, exercise and overall self-care in achieving the overall benefits of mind/body/spirit health. Another triathlete I follow is Rich Roll (on Facebook, Instagram, JaiLifestyle.com, etc) incorporates his wife’s ‘Jai Release Meditation Program’ – she’s a long-term yoga practitioner. I’m loving that all my diverse worlds of training, psychotherapy, etc. are connecting through my teacher training as I grow and learn about the fundamentals of yoga practice.