The study of personal reaction turns into a study of eternal relationships. The study of relationships turns into a study of universal patterns. The world is then recognized to be symbolically informing us of our nature and our core patterns because the patterns of the world, in fact, are our patterns as well. This reflectiveness is the world's ultimate personal value and it can only be experienced because of the mind. When we understand this dynamic between mind and life, life becomes the satguru (true teacher). Yogis are astutely processing their relationship to life in a desperately intimate way to better their own sense of being so that they may in time better absorb the wealth of living. Breath holds a special place within this process compared to other bodily functions but why?

The simplest reason for the breath's valued position in yoga and life, in general, is the obvious truth that without breath there is no life. Without site, there is still life. Without hearing there is life. Without companionship there is life. Without happiness there is life. Without shelter there is life. Without money there is life. Without love there is life. Without arms or legs, there is life. Without portions of the brain, there is still life. Even self-awareness is not a prerequisite for life. This is all to say that, yes there are many other aspects of our bodies and lives that are necessary to live, ie: a heart, a brain, blood, food, the Sun, atmosphere, water, gravity, etc but there are many aspects of our lives that are also unnecessary and breath is demonstrably in the ranks of the necessary.

Breathwork, the practice of breathing, is called pranayama in sanskrit. Breath is equated to prana or life force. The word the yogis use for breathing is yet another display of breath's unchallenged value. Pranayama means to restrain and then expand upon the quantity of life force (prana) that the yogi has. Think of prana as the tilled fields of agricultural land. Restrained and then cultivated. It is shaped and because of that imposed order, it becomes bountiful. Another example is light. When it is restrained into a single beam it reaches a new standard of order and potency and then becomes a laser. In a similar way, when a yogi restrains the breath through pranayama they elevate the potency and organization of their life force becoming more alert to their relationship to the world, again, so they may better know themselves.

There is a story that further elaborates on prana's top position within the hierarchy of significance. The elements, because they are the architects of the material world, falsely but understandably presume they are supreme. They sit and argue amongst themselves who is the most powerful. Fire claims it can burn anything to ash. Water argues it can dissolve anything. Wind can move anything. Earth can hold anything. Space can embrace anything. Hearing the squabble Prana announces itself to the elements claiming that it is the source of all power. One by one the elements challenge Prana's claim of superiority. Prana, life force, proves itself to each element by withdrawing its essence from each of them. Earth begins to crumble losing its strength. Water begins to evaporate. Fire begins to dwindle into an ember. Wind begins to slow. Space itself somehow begins to disappear. Indra the Lord of the material plane, master of all the elements, comes to confront Prana. Upon seeing the state of the elements Indra immediately bows to Prana acknowledging Prana as supreme.

This parable is a simple lesson. Its purpose is to create a feeling that there is a spirit to things and that spirit manifests because of a mysterious energy we can call aliveness. When aliveness has withdrawn the defining nature of that thing, whether it is an element or a person, also begins to fade. As people, we experience the loss of aliveness as stress, depression, confusion, heaviness, and lethargy. We seem to lose ourselves and our intentions. These attitudes are the consequence of low prana. Is a weak and irregular breath really this catastrophic? The value of breath and prana is only realized when we take responsibility for our vitality by acknowledging that our essence might in sad truth be depleted. It's also valuable to say all roads are infinite. Someone is always somewhat depleted and can always be less depleted. We cannot blame the circumstances or the environments we live through because we ourselves suppress or express our personal prana, further advancing or diminishing our own aliveness. These states of dimness are learning grounds, not wrong but not best. In these dimmer states of mind we are the crumbling earth drained of life force. Unwilling to acknowledge Prana's significance we'd prefer to crumble than change our ways just like the elements. We refuse to breath more deeply and rhythmically because we don't appreciate the significance of respiration. This chosen ignorance and arrogance is the death sentence of the ego. To breathe well is how Indra bows to prana. To reanimate themselves and the elements that symbolically make them, the yogi committedly masters their breathing habits by simply breathing through their nose with their diaphragm, fully, peacefully, and constantly. These sorts of breaths are the miracle that bond us to life and the universe itself.

The essence of the universe is creation. The universe is a womb of perpetual birth. But it itself had to have been created. It is the entertaining dilemma of the chicken or the egg. Even the universe is realized to have an essential nature that also depends on prana. As a watch depends on its gears, the whole depends on its pieces, the universe depends on its prana. Presumably, the first act of reality had to have been the creation of the universe itself. The spark that gave rise to this universe is called the Mahaprana (the great act of will). Here prana is equated to will rather than just aliveness. When harnessed, will becomes a powerfully adaptive personality trait that leads to a being that not only survives but creates. The inspiration behind creativity and art depends even more on prana than the mere willingness to survive. It is the difference between living and thriving. Prana is the cardinal ingredient for creative willpower. In relation to the game of creating their personal lives, the willful breath becomes a personal testament to the prana of the yogi and is directly connected to a capacity to produce well-being. When the yogi breaths they remind themselves and the world within them, I am resolved to continue growing, enjoying, and existing in the eternal back and forth of creation, devoted to remembering that life is created through harmony and balance. It and I are only rivers becoming oceans becoming rivers, again. It is perpetual recreation! Perhaps the greatest feat of human will is our ability to trust and then interact with all of life, forever knowing it as the most valuable and marvelous of all things that could ever be. To see, to create, to perceive life as a thing of perfect wonder is a choice that doesn't have to be made. All choices, especially the remarkable ones are the consequence of high energy. Magical choices lead to magical realities. Those sorts of choices are known as dreams and dreams take more prana than anything.

Pranayama, breathing, is the first link in the chain of effort that allows us to better organize our aliveness so that we may touch a sweeter way of living. Remember, we are literally speaking about breathing when we discuss pranayama. That means to breath well is the first step in rebuilding life as a dream.

Since breath is translated to prana, breath to the yogi is a descendant of the Mahaprana (the great act of will that birthed reality). When a newborn is initiated into the world, what is their first act of will? A breath. As "breath" created the universe, our breaths create our universe, and an infants breath creates its new reality outside of its mother. You can now hopefully empathize with the yogi's fixation with prana but their fascination with the breath is dependant on these understandings; that breath itself is an expression of prana and prana's imperative place is not just within the cosmic schemata but its role is central to the very creation of the cosmos and its schemata. Breath is the progenitor. Otherwise, as it is for so many, a breath would just be a breath. It might be mildly pleasurable and momentarily calming but that is all. To the yogi these theories make a breath divine.

To grow dramatically we must become modest and return to the absolute basics, completely revamping our perceptions from the ground up. To the yogi we are still in the crib, still learning the real value of the simplest things. Breath is one of these basic processes we're learning to revalue. By building new relationships with these basics we are slowly learning how to ride the unfelt prosperity of our changing circumstances and swim in the depths of life as a meaningful rather than visionless experience. The influx of beauty and meaning is the mind awakening. We are seeing life for the spectacle it is which only comes when a mind is open to its world. It is the cultivation of prana through pranayama that opens the mind and allows us to interact with life in a way that actually nurtures psychological and physiological health. It takes more energy to adaptively evolve than it does to fall into the mess of regression. It takes more energy to open a mind than close it. This sort of personal evolution depends on a proportionate balance between chaos and intelligent organization, leaning heavily into the latter. The value of organization can be appreciated in anything but if we ask where the beauty of crystals comes from the answer is particularly visible. They have remarkable shapes, textures, and colors. Crystals are as glamorous as they are because of their highly organized atomic structures. Their value, especially in building technology, is dependant on their unique chemical properties which are defined by a stunning atomic orderliness. Through crystals, we can appreciate and visualize that order is obviously linked to a particular sort of functionality and uncanny beauty. This means if we can see order in a thing it suggests we will find its beauty. Circumstance brings necessary chaos. Can we sense order in it? Inversely, if we can impose order into a chaotic thing will we impose into it beauty? The answer is order is generally beautiful. If you breathe rhythmically (rhythm being a domain of order) through a stressful situation it will likely pass more easily. Ease can certainly be perceived as beauty. We'll discuss the physical footprints of breathing later on and how when breaths are breathed in particularly organized ways it creates peace for the nervous system and literal energy through the circulatory system, leading us into a "crystalline" brain, which blooms into a bedazzled mind. A crystalline mind perceives the world as the magnum opus of whatever god could be. A heaven made real. Imagine that. That is the crystalline world, the yogic world. It is akin, in symbolic ways, to the glamour of gems versus the drudgery of rocks.

The reasons for these opening statements were first; to express that the yogi's life is a sacred schooling and through symbolism and philosophy the yogi can master life's unspeakable wisdom. Second, it was to detail what breath is to the yogic mind. There are many ways to validate breath within yoga and in that many values to its practice but I am making the argument that above all, including those reasons mentioned above, the main point of the breath, is to open the mind and further the internalization of awareness. Breath is a biological mechanism that literally induces introspection. Breathe and become a stone sinking in the ocean of inner self. Breathe well and become a boulder, rushing to dharmata (the ground luminosity of life). Introspection opens the soul. Imagine an animal learning to use a handle to open a door. The mysticism of yoga is as profound and as simple as that. Self-realization, the sole ambition of the yogi, is as simple as opening an unlocked door by exploring a particular mode of the nervous system and tweaking the chemical composition in the blood. The recovery of the True- Self depends on the willingness to pivot the mind towards the void within itself by adding a little time to mindfully breathe in your lifestyle!

This pivoting happens the very moment you focus on your breath more than your pose. That's the literal turning point within your practice where the mind shifts its attention from the external, which is called vibhu (cosmic orientation) to the internal, which is called anu (atomic orientation). When the yogi chooses breath over posture they, in that moment, have become a truly advanced practitioner. They are now applying Noble Form to their nerves and blood chemistry. For a person to intentionally edit those nuances is an unfathomable display of precision awareness. Yoga, by mastering the nervous and circulatory system through breath, reflects the potential of what our minds can do when they introspect. This introspection eventually led to a charted way through the mind and into the consciousness beyond it! The extraordinary journey truly begins with an inhale.