“Breath regulates the energy of life, the quality of emotions, and the ability to direct the mind.” – KRI Int’l Teacher Training Manual.
It is said in yogic tradition that depression begins with a shallow breath. Breath is your foundational life force.
Breath Does The Following:
- promotes health and vitality
- supports the range and creativity of emotions
- assists in controlling your moods
- helps develop concentration
- promotes a feeling of connectedness
Additionally, as your primary source of energy, you can only last a couple of minutes without your breath. The importance of breath is profound.
Most of us don’t realize, however, that we are breathing ‘backwards’ or too shallow and we aren’t taking in enough life force.
By not breathing properly, we are not able to live to capacity. By not having full capacity, we have a hard time handling challenging situations. If we can’t handle the situations that come up in our life, it can lead to insecurity, fear, worry, and anxiety.
This is the beginning stages of depression.
Some Common Triggers That Can Lead To Depression Are:
- stress or sense of overwhelm (both “good” and “bad”)
- job loss
- financial insecurity
- health conditions or illness
- major life changes (move, death, retirement)
- alcohol and drug use
- unhealthy diet
- poor sleep habits
- low exercise or lack of movement
- lack of connection (people, nature, purpose)
While none of these alone may cause depression, you may find yourself feeling insecure, afraid, worrisome, or anxious. When these feelings and/or situations aren’t handled and they become bigger, depression can result.
Nearly every single person has dealt with some level of depression at one time or another.
You may have experienced short term depression in response to the sudden death of a loved one (for example) or long term clinical depression as a result of on-going challenging situations.
If you’re experiencing depression, you might feel a sense of sadness, lack of motivation, and even possibly questioning your worth or value. During this time, it is often difficult to find reasons to keep moving forward.
Instead, to one who is depressed, it can seem easier to allow yourself to stay stuck. The reality is that help might be just one breath away.
As a Teacher of Kundalini Yoga (as taught by Yogi Bhajan), I support students in breathing properly, knowing life begins with breath.
When we deepen the breath, we increase lung capacity and that supports reprogramming the nervous and glandular systems. This allows you to have more ability to handle the challenges that you are facing.
By building more life force within, through your breath, you have more control over your feelings and actions.
To begin to assess where you are in relation to depression, you can ask yourself the following questions (from KRI Training Manual):
Do I fearlessly embrace life?
Do I have enough energy to fulfill my goals?
Do I Fearlessly Embrace Life?
When you ask this question, what comes up for you? Are you finding yourself willing to step boldly or are you continuously backing down? When we fearlessly embrace life, we are open to possibility and chance.
We look to life for inspiration and guidance and feel connection to a deeper purpose. When living this way, with our full capacity, life flows.
A telltale sign for me that I haven’t been consistent with my yoga and meditation practice is when I allow fear to creep in: fear of my worth; fear of speaking my truth; fear of what others might think of me.
I find myself taking longer breaks during the day, on the couch numbing myself with social media, and making excuses for not moving forward.
Yet, when I’m on point with my yoga and meditation, life is easier to handle. The challenges and stress will still arise, but I have more capacity with which to handle it.
I realize now that having a daily spiritual practice (of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation) is wonderful for the really good days of my life, but it is necessary for the hard days.
This practice always reconnects me to my basic foundation, which is my breath. When I’m connected to my breath, I am less likely to get caught up in the negativity of unpleasant situations.
Do I Have Enough Energy To Fulfill My Goals?
When you ask this question, what comes up for you? Are you moving through life with zest and vibrancy or are you allowing yourself to stay small? If you are depressed or feeling a sense of depression, you might even find yourself wondering what the point of having a goal is.
When we are depressed, we aren’t seeing fully or clearly and our goals can become fuzzy and too far to reach. We may even get to the stage where we don’t have goals anymore because we question whether or not we’ll be around to see them through.
“Through your breath, your Pranic Body continuously brings the life force and energy into your system.
This allows you to feel fearless, fully alive, and at one with all creation. When your Pranic Body is strong, and your breathing is deep and relaxed, nothing can bother you. You are self-motivated, and you have enough energy to achieve your goals.
All disease starts with an imbalance in the Pranic Body. If your Eighth Body (Pranic Body) is weak, you may have constant low-level anxiety and chronic fatigue. You may try to get energy from food or stimulants. You may be fearful and defensive.” – KRI Teaching Manual
For years I lived a completely unfulfilling life and although never clinically diagnosed, I was depressed much of the time.
Since embracing the skills of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, I now have the technology to move beyond feeling insecure, afraid, worrisome, and anxious.
I can see when my personal pattern begins to shift, and that is when I come back to my practice and my breath.
When we embrace the technology associated with our breath, we move from finite to infinite.
Following is a meditation that can be used to support shifting depression, moving you from finite to infinite. As always, before practicing any Kundalini Yoga Kriya and/or Meditation (as taught by Yogi Bhajan), we begin with the Adi Mantra.
The Adi Mantra is ‘Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo’ and translates to ‘I honor the guru within.
I honor the guru in all things.’ or ‘I honor the love (light, God) within. I honor the love (light, God) in all things.’
Sitting in easy pose (legs crossed comfortably and with a tall spine), close your eyes, bring your hands in prayer pose at the heart center and chant the mantra three times.
This mantra tunes us into the Golden Chain, connecting us to all of the teachers that have gone before us.
Now you are ready to begin the meditation. You can start with practising this meditation for 3 minutes each day and work up to 11 minutes each day for 40 days in a row.
Meditation On The Breath For Healing And To Break Depression (As Taught By Yogi Bhajan)
Pose: Sit in a relaxed pose with a tall spine. Relax the hands in your lap, palms face up with your right hand on top; or put your hands in Gyan Mudra (index finger and thumb tips touching).
Eyes: Close the eyes 9/10ths, leaving them just slightly open and focus on the tip of the nose.
Breath: Inhale through the nose, in four equal parts, until the lungs are completely full. Exhale fully through the nose. Each inhale part is a quick, sniff-like breath that causes the sides of the nose to collapse in slightly. It is important to focus on the flow of the breath, and to keep the broken breath equally divided.
Mantra: Use the mantra Sa-Ta-Na-Ma Wahe Guru during the breath cycle as follows:
- Inhale – four equal parts
- Saa (Infinity, totality of the Cosmos)
- Taa (Life, Birth)
- Naa (Death, Transformation)
- Maa (Rebirth)
- Wahe Guru (I am in ecstasy when I experience indescribable Wisdom)
Time: Complete this meditation for 3 minutes each day working up to 11 minutes each day for 40 days in a row.
This meditation focuses solely and completely on the breath, bringing more prana, more life force, into your body. The more life force you have in your body, the better equipped you are to handle any situation that comes your way.
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Disclaimer: The contents of this article are not to be considered medical advice. They are based on Kundalini Yoga teachings (as taught £y Yogi Bhajan) and not intended to substitute medical care. Engaging in these teachings is at your own risk and you assume all responsibility!
Jen (Siri Deva) Grant – Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Teacher