The breath is intimately connected to the body and mind, and is influenced by them as well as influencing them. When we are anxious, the breath becomes shorter, and the body tenses. When we focus on lengthening the exhalation, for example, the body can relax and the mind becomes quieter.
In our yoga practice our work with the breath is an integral part of our practice of postures and is a practice itself – pranayama, the conscious regulation of the breath.
Prana refers to life force energy; ayama means to extend. Prana is throughout the body and is responsible for the function of life. We cannot obtain more prana from the outside rather we seek to assure that the prana within the body flows without obstruction to support our health. This can be accomplished through breathing practices that support the physiological functions of the body thus maintaining health and vitality.
In practice, we change our normal patterns of breathing through pranayama. When we do this our mind is affected and becomes more focused, and impurities in our system are reduced.
Yoga recognizes our breath as a source of life and a powerful tool to help us move to a stable, clear state of mind.