By Nancy Kane
Breathing is an overlooked power source. Most of us don’t even think about it. But the way you breathe can impact your whole body, regulating important functions such as blood pressure and heart rate. Practicing breath work can have multiple health benefits including mental clarity, focus and weight control.
Jaggi Vasudev, popularly known as Sadhguru, is an Indian yogi, mystic, New York Times bestselling author and founder of the Isha Foundation, a nonprofit that offers yoga programs around the world and conducts social outreach, educational and environmental initiatives in an effort to better the world. His devotees include Donna Karan, the Osbournes, Dierks Bentley, Priyanka Chopra, Amy Smart and Moby. In person, Sadhguru is a soft-spoken, gentle man with soulful brown eyes (a twinkle of humor is ever-present) and a beard that flows much like his robes.
He speaks slowly, carefully choosing his words, as he explains the simple yet effective method of breathing known as Shambhavi Mahamudra, an ancient practice with the underlying principle being the alignment of physical and mental energy.
Sadhguru believes that the reason why most people are unhappy or unhealthy is that the physical, mental and spiritual or “pranic” bodies are not in alignment. Sadhguru’s Shambhavi Mahamudra practice aligns the entire system so that mind, body, emotions and energy function in harmony, establishing a chemistry of bliss.
“There is a certain way to engineer our system, to make this body, to make this mind…the very chemistry within us, the way we want it,” Sadhguru says. Balance brings about joyfulness, naturally. But all too often life gets in the way of this blissful state and throws us off. “Now, we are looking at the technology of keeping these three bodies constantly aligned,” he continues, “so that joyfulness is not an accidental happening; joyfulness becomes a normal condition, a natural way of living.”
Regular practitioners have experienced a drop in excess weight (overeating is a symptom of energies not being aligned), lower stress, a boost in mental alertness and focus, and an increase in overall self-awareness. Hypertension and depression decrease, and sleep quality improves. Mental and emotional benefits include greater inner peace, improved emotional balance, self-confidence, concentration and higher productivity.
“When I started this program, I was really frustrated—with the size of my body, my lack of flexibility—and I was dying to check my phone to see what other people wanted,” says TV personality, author and publicist Kelly Cutrone. “I motored through the first two or three days and I began to realize my mind was not in the driver’s seat. It was erratic, thinking about all these other things I could be doing rather than caring for myself.”
It wasn’t until day five that Cutrone noticed the effects. “I realized that my face looked thinner and I was less bloated. I could get my leg up into a rock-the-baby without looking like a plus-size Weeble. So I kept with it. When you do it regularly, your body wants to do it, so it reminds you. It is the one thing I do on a daily basis because it really does work. It sets the tone for my day: Whatever happens starts and stops with me and my spiritual practice.”
In addition to offering techniques such as Shambhavi Mahamudra, the Isha Foundation offers ways to restructure and align our inner selves with our physical beings. Meditation courses are available through the foundation and can be taken online and then practiced daily. Here, Sadhguru gives simple advice for eliminating stress:
Remember to take deep breaths. “Breath is not just the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. When you are angry, peaceful, happy or sad, your breath goes through subtle changes. Whichever way you breathe, that is the way you think. Whichever way you think, that is the way you breathe.”
Sit up straight. “If you sit with your spine erect, your organs will have the maximum possible comfort.”
Change your context. “The quality of our lives changes and transforms not because we change the content of our lives, but only because we change the context of our lives.”
Consciously relieve yourself of tension. “If you create any tension in the body or in the mind, you will slowly work against yourself. If your body is tense, your mind will be tense. If your mind is tense, your body will be tense. Don’t turn your energies against you!”
Manage yourself, not your stress. “Stress is your inability to manage your body, mind, and energies. If your mind took instructions from you, would you keep it stressful or blissful? What’s your choice? Blissful.”