Breath is life itself, intimately connected to all our experiences and directly linked with the mind. When the mind is calm, the breath will be calm. Slow down the breath and the mind will slow down.
Most of us shallow breathe only using around one tenth of our lung capacity. When the breath is not full, the body is deprived of prana, the vital force essential to good health.
Pranayama consists of a series of exercises especially intended to meet the body's needs and keep it in vibrant health. Prana is the ultimate medicine for all diseases, a complete system of self medication and self treatment. Breathing with awareness, ensures we bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and so control prana, the healing, vital life force.
Pranayama naturally leads us to a heightened state of meditation, by working with and moving the pranic energy through the body. This works deeply to shift and allow old painful patterns of belief to fall away and for relief of all stress, so re-establishing the natural relaxed rhythms of the body and mind. In this state of 'surrender' we are able to access our most nature essence. It is in this connection that we are able to return to the wholeness of the core of our being regardless of our external circumstances.
Of all of the positive changes a person can make, learning to breath deeply, and completely is probably the most effective tool for developing higher consciousness and for increasing health, vitality, and connectedness in one's life.
"You live by the breath. You are born by the breath, and you die when the breath leaves you. The focal point of your being is the breath of life." -Yogi Bhajan