The Breath

This week we are pleased to share an article from one of our newest Jaya teachers, Erica Nealon.  While the topic of breath is always important, it can become even more relevant during this season of the year.    

The Breath


Take a second and listen to your breath. Watch your chest rise with each inhale and fall with each exhale. Think about where that breath is going when you take it in, and what is being released when you send it out.

We never spend much time thinking about our breath. We may only think about it when it’s cold and we can see it, or when we have exhausted it and our breathing is labored. 

The focus of the breath is essentially our practice in yoga, but we don’t really have to think about it. We just do it. We just breathe.

Our breath is what keeps us here. It’s what can take us back to the present moment. It keeps our bodies working. When we breathe, we send oxygen to every little cell in our body, keeping them working and expelling carbon dioxide with each exhale. 

Breathing is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we die. 

Dolphins are conscious breathers. They do not breathe automatically like we do; they decide when to breathe. They actually have to think about it while they are sleeping, which means that a part of their brain has to remain constantly awake in order for a dolphin to remember to breathe. 

Humans can have prolonged periods of unconsciousness and not have to worry that our breathing will stop because we are no longer thinking about it. 

Dolphins use what is known as unihemispheric sleep - only one hemisphere of the brain can sleep at a time in order for the other one to control the breathing. For breathing purposes, they rest on the surface of the water while they sleep. This means they are actively thinking about their breath, always.

Imagine if we had to think about breathing. Imagine if you had to make a decision whether or not to breath. 

If I decide not to breathe at this moment, I can decide if I want to live or die; however, we never think about our breath in this way. Most of us never really think about our breath in any way. We just know we do it. We know that it is important, but we never take the time to focus on it. We think about breathing in terms of living. The breath gives us life. If we are no longer breathing, we are no longer alive. We don’t think about breath in terms of dying until we have to.

Have you ever watched someone take their last breath? When you know someone is leaving this Earth, you do not focus on their kidneys; you do not focus on their heart; you do not focus on their brain. You focus on their breath. 

There are patterns of breath that come before death. While the other organs may be failing and causing the actual death, it is the breathing that we can see and hear. As death nears, the breath becomes irregular. Rapid breathing may occur at first, followed by a period of little to no breath. The time between each breath becomes longer. It can just be a few seconds or it can be as long as a minute.

When you are watching a loved one in this state, that is what you are watching - the breath. When the final breath is taken, you know. You know that the person has left this Earth.

Do we focus on our own breath? We should. 

Focusing on our breath keeps us in the present. We live each moment by each breath. The next breath is not guaranteed. Each time we breathe, we are sending oxygen to the brain. We are sending it to the places in our body that needs it in that present moment. 

Taking some time each day to focus on your breath will ground you in the present moment. It does not matter what is happening around you; it does not matter what thoughts are racing through your mind. As soon as you stop and focus on your breath, that becomes the only thought. It becomes the only focus. 

It’s good to take some time each day and focus on the thing that keeps us alive, to be grateful that we can breathe.