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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Way of Grace

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Breathing is the first act of our lives. Within the breath is the secret of life. Breath is linked to the vital life energy in us, or prana.

We gain prana through air, fresh foods and rest — and also through meditation. A lack of prana results in lethargy, dullness and poor enthusiasm. When our bodies are lively with prana, we feel alert, energetic and full of good humor. Prana is the very basis of health and well-being for both body and mind.

Prana is more abundant in fresh air than in stale air. (Compare how you feel after an hour in a stuffy room versus an hour walking in a forest or near the ocean surf.) Yet whatever the air quality we live in, our health can be dramatically enhanced with pranayama — deep breathing practices that open the lungs and maximize the absorption of prana.

The words prana+ayama mean to live from the dimension of prana — to live fullness of life. Pranayama techniques recharge the cells, keeping us young and vital, with resilient health and brilliant clarity of mind. Pranayamas are simple to do and are easily learned on the Healing Breath Workshop.

Most people use only a fraction of their lung capacity. Pranayama breathing techniques open the lungs and bring health, energy and brilliance of mind.

The Healing Breath

A crest jewel in the Art of Living is the healing breath known as Sudarshan Kriya. (Su [proper] darshan [vision] kriya [action] means “that action which gives one a proper vision of oneself.”) This unique breathing practice is a potent energizer. Every cell becomes fully oxygenated and flooded with new life. Negative emotions that have been stored as toxins in the body are easily uprooted and flushed out. Tensions, frustrations and anger get released. Anxiety, depression and lethargy are washed away. Both the mind and the body feel a welcome relief. After the practice, one is left calm and centered with a clearer vision of the world and of oneself. A sense of joy in the moment prevails where once again we can smile from our hearts. And when we feel good about ourselves, love flows naturally in all our relationships with others.

How can a breathing practice be so beneficial? How does it work?

More than a mere breathing exercise, the rhythms of breath during the Sudarshan Kriya technique carry a deep significance.

Rhythms abound everywhere in nature: day follows night, tides rise and fall, seasons come and go. Countless biological rhythms exist in the body. There are also rhythms of mind and emotions. When these rhythms are in sync, we feel a sense of harmony and well-being. When stress throws us off balance, chaotic rhythms are created within us. Then we feel a sense of discomfort and discontent. The mind wavers, vacillating between worries about the future and regrets of the past. We find that we do not fully enjoy our lives in the present moment, here and now …

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