The most basic pranayama practice is observing the breath. “Basic”, as opposed to “simple”, because it’s the basis upon which we can develop other practices and also because observing the breath is no simple matter. For one thing, as soon as we turn our attention to it, the breath tends to change. The first challenge is allowing the breath to be what it is while we become aware of it. Like other bodily functions like the heart beat or digestion, breathing changes automatically depending on our state. What makes breathing special is the fact that it’s the only bodily function that we can also direct to a certain extent. All this means that it’s a meeting point between the body, the mind and our emotions or energy. For some people observing the breath feels uncomfortable or even unsettling. This can be disconcerting, when observing the breath is always suggested as a way to calm down. It is in the long run, but while we get there it’s worth being very gentle with ourselves. We are approaching a central aspect of our way of being in life and, by doing so, we are faced with things that we may not usually notice. Imagine your breath is a bird on a branch. If you are too conspicuous with your watching, it might fly away. Observe softly, kindly, with no expectation or demand, take a break from the practice if you need to and when you’re ready come back. Observe almost as a question, “Can I?”. And respect however long the gettting-to-know-one-another takes.

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.

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