Nose Breathing

As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I was always taught to breath through the nose during asana. In fact, in our everyday natural state, awake or asleep, we should always breathe through the nose. There are many benefits for nose breathing as opposed to mouth breathing and here’s why.

The nose has an innate immunity and eliminates airway pathogens. When bacteria is inhaled into the nose, exosomes are released that directly attack the pathogens and shuttle the protective anti-microbial proteins from the front of the nose to the back along the airway, protecting other cells before they get too far into the body. So nose breathing can act as an early warning and defence system for the rest of the body.
Did you know that when we mouth breathe pathogens such as dust mites enter the lungs and can live within them for up to three or four months. When breathing in through the nose, the nose can kill these dust mites in just fifteen minutes!

Nose breathing also slows the airflow movement, which comes in through the nose and down in a circular pattern due to the inside shape of the nose. This slow movement is beneficial for the lungs. Lung tissue is sensitive and when cold air comes in through the mouth it can stress and damage it. If lung tissue is damaged it affects the whole nervous system.

Nose breathing allows air to move deeper into the bottom of our lungs due to the vacuum that is created within it. The air is sent deeper into the lungs where there are more alveoli and more efficient air exchange within them. Alveoli are tiny air sacs in your lungs that take up the oxygen you breathe in and keep your body going.

Nose breathing also produces nitric oxide, which is a natural gas of respiration. It is produced in the paranasal sinuses and if you don’t breath through the nose, you aren’t able to take that nitric oxide into the body. Nitric oxide is something that our body needs, and it does a lot of amazing things. Firstly it is a vasodilator, which means that it regulates blood pressure by dilating and opening the arteries. Nitric oxide is also a bronchodilator, meaning that it opens the bronchioles, the little branches in the lungs that allows airflow movement through them. And interestingly, nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter regulator, helping to regulate serotonin, a key hormone that regulates our mood and feelings of well-being, glutamate and GABA. So by breathing through your nose you are:
allowing better blood flow
allowing better air flow
Helps regulate your mood. WOW!!!

And the best bit of all, did you know that humming increases nitric oxide by 15%. No wonder we feel so good after chanting long OM’s and practicing Brahmari pranayama (bumble bee breath)!!!!!!


The Alchemy of Yoga

Over the last five years deity yoga has been a big part of my sadhana and I have been observing how my relationship to it has gone through different phases.

Kali Ma is the Mother Goddess of transformation, and I know that you are familiar with her. She is that part of you that expresses as that deep primal yearning within you that longs for change, destruction and transformation. Although you don’t know it yet, this deep yearning is your innate desire to truely know who you are beyond all the ego and labels/stories/roles and conditioning attached to your identity.

This deep yearning for transformation is none other than Goddess Kali herself. She is that emanation of consciousness that expresses as powerful transformative and destructive energy/shakti!!!

Your initial awakening to the power of Kali Ma (Mother Kali) of Mahakali (The Great Mother) initially awakens as your desire for change, for something to shift, for something to transform in your life or circumstances. Something may not be working in your relationships, your work, or family and you just know that you have to do something about it. Often you just don’t know how.

But for the sadhaka on the yoga path, and through the power of grace, you become curious about who these Goddess of yoga are, and why deities are so revered. You are thirsty to know more! And so begins your journey with deity yoga!!!

With enough self-reflection, you acknowledge that change is necessary even though it may initial cause pain and suffering! You look to which yoga Goddesses/powers of consciousness you can call on to support and hold you through this destructive stage. So you choose Goddess Kali- a powerful transcendent energy, a mighty force so big and replete. An energy much bigger than you, that could only exist outside of your “tiny, powerless self”. This way of working with deities is a necessary stage because you simply don’t have the personal power or agency to get through this on your own. Your conditioning is just too strong and binding.

As you call on Kali Ma’s power by invoking her through meditations on her form and visualisation of offering all her limitations, inner blocks and fears into the fire of her body, you slowly begins to feel and notice shifts both within and without you.

As Kali Ma’s power ripples either forcefully or gently through your life (she can be experienced as both) those necessary hurtful shifts happen, and you begin to see how new things blossom at the feet of Kali’s destructive and transformative power. These positive changes drive your yearning even deeper and you want to get to know Kali Ma more intimately. So you begin to chant her mantra and offer your prayers as part of your regular sadhana. Wow…now you notice how much your yoga practice has changed…less asana…more meditation…more mantra repetition…..more devotion…. Your yearning becomes so palpable that it is physically felt in the depths of your heart and you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with your physical heart???

As your practice with deity yoga becomes stronger, you begin to realise that the more devotion you give to Kali Ma or any deity, the more you feel held in life and the more your begin to relax and surrender into its embrace. When this transformation happens, people begin to notice and tell you…”you’ve changed”…”you’re different”…. And you know you are, and when this realisation dawns there is no going back. You’ve been drawn into the lure of her embrace and your spiritual practice becomes even more devoted to knowing her.

This is when you notice the third phase of deity yoga and you begin to embody the Goddess herself. You feel Kali Ma’s immanence- that the transformative power lies within you and that all you needed to do was invoke it. The power of destruction and transformation is within your very own being- you are destruction and transformation. And FUCK…when you have an embodied insight/experience of this, even if it’s only for a few seconds or it last for a few days, that deep yearning eases a little. Your perspective on life shifts. You become less fearful of life’s uncertainty and impermanence. You even begin to revel in it!!!! Making decisions is easier, you stop expecting and blaming things on others and you realise that you are the creator of your own reality.

You realise how far you have come in your sadhana and you approach your practice with Kali Ma on a new level…seeking to know more…asking is there more for me to know…..and her lure draws you back to your mat or meditation seat day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out, year in and year out….. Then you really begin to question, if I am this powerful force of transformation, what else lies within me….and you question…who or what am I really…..the yearning hasn’t gone away, but multiplied in force. And even though you didn’t know it at the beginning, you really start to get it know and to understand what that deep yearning is all about!

Your sadhana eventually becomes the goal of yoga….knowing your true nature!!!!

This is the alchemy of yoga!!!!