Flexibility, strength and balance are all by-products of a regular yoga practice. The true purpose of yoga is to unite your mind, body and spirit. This can be achieved through the breath and mindful breathing (pranayama). The importance of the breath in yoga should not be underestimated, without mindful breathing yoga just becomes any other form of exercise. Yoga with mindful breathing helps to establish the mind/body connection and the quality of the breath can have a direct impact on the our state of mind. Slowing down the breath can slow down the mind – it’s that simple.
Often in our yoga practice we sacrifice the integrity of our breath to attain a particular pose. When we shift our intention from the physical to the psychological and spiritual aspects of yoga we can deepen our practice. The intent of the physical pose was, is and always will be to use the body as a tool to calm the mind so that we can be still (physically & mentally) for meditation. We use the poses and the breath to transition our focus and awareness from outside to inside until we reach a point where all outside stimulation dissolves and we can come to a place of peace within.
So as we develop and advance our physical practice, know that there are layers to our yoga practice that reach far beyond the physical benefits and the key to accessing them is through your breath.