Pranayama: The Breath of Life

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costa rica yoga teacher training pavones yoga center costa ricaAfter many many years of a personal practice it was not until I dove head first into my 200-hour yoga teaching training at Pavones Yoga Center that I really began to focus and include Pranayama as an important instrument for deepening my practice. During that transformational month in Pavones we spent countless hours learning, feeling and breathing the differences between Ujjai, Alternate-Nostril, Breath of Fire and 3 Part Breath, I sounded like a dragon one day and an old snoring man the next! “Prana means “life force”, in China it is referred to as “chi” and in the West we might call it “energy”. “Because respiratory movements in the chest are biologically and instinctively tied up with the emergency responses for flight or fight in the most primitive part of the brain, they automatically tend to stir up these feelings. By becoming aware of our subtle breathing patterns, we can often tap into the undercurrents of this human organism. Learning to witness the breath gives us a new way to observe both our conscious and unconscious responses to the world around us.” (Indira, Hatha Yoga Teacher Training Manual, Pavones Yoga Center 2012). So we know the breath is literally our life force, we know it is directly linked to emotions, we can stimulate or calm the nervous system with just our breath, its powerful stuff people!

indira kate kalmbach yoga teacher costa rica pavones yoga centerShortly after graduation I found myself as a volunteer yoga teacher at a farm in Peru, I was excited to share everything I had just learned and incorporate pranayama into my classes.  The farm would host healers, yogis and teachers to give different workshops on weekends. One weekend a Chilean couple came to host a workshop they called “Re-birthing Breathwork”….I couldn’t wait to find out what the heck “Re-birthing” even meant! The weekend came and 8 people from the farm all gathered in the yoga studio for the first Rebirthing session. The Chileans came over and assisted me in this shallow circular or looping flow of upper chest breathing. The focus is on the deep inhalations followed by a relaxed exhalation. Once everyone had the breath down we would lay down on our mats and began the breath again, the rule was to continue the breath for 1 hour without breaking the rhythmic cycle and allow whatever emotions or feelings to come and go. So I thought “Ok I got this, sounds like it is going to be a relaxing hour of breathing while the Chilean couple play drums” right?….WRONG, I was in for a ride! The first 5 minutes felt like forever, like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen, the next 10 minutes I felt light headed and was getting angry. I remembered the Chileans one rule, just stick with it. 20 minutes into the exercise my anger turned into sorrow, we are talking intense flood of sorrow streaming out, my nose was running and I began sobbing but still continued with the breath. A chime announced the hour was over and I collected my self and sat up for group sharing. I noticed a few other people in the room were wiping tears from their eyes and everyone seemed in a state of emotional openness. What had just happened? How did a simple breathing exercise make half to room shed tears?

   The breathwork process releases the emotional, negative charge out of cell memory. The process causes integration of unresolved emotional, physical, mental and spiritual energies.  Although I did not realize at the time what my tears meant,  just like an onion, re-birthing was peeling back layers of these unresolved emotional energies, possibly all the way back to suppressed emotions from birth. “By learning to use breathing as a highly transformational tool (conscious connected circular breathing), you will learn how to free your physical and emotional body from energetic blockages resulting from traumatic or suppressed experience. Regular practice will energize you, enhance your well being, your prosperity and support the growth of spiritual awareness. ” More specifically “Re-birthing allows us to enter a state of body and consciousness which we all experienced in the pre-natal time and which was pushed back by the shocks of birth and early relationships.” (

  The reason I wanted to share my experience of Re-birthing with all of you is because the intense emotional release that took me by surprise! I highly suggest finding a rebirther to work with if you have one in your area. We as yogis know how powerful Pranayama is, and although this breathwork is not traditional, I believe it has the power to release things we are even unaware we are holding onto. The link between the breath and emotions is undeniable, and this simple technique has the power to resolve, allowing us to free up energy and move forward and expand awarness on all levels, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Let it all out so you can move forward to your true potential! 


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