As well as the irrefutable physiological benefits of breathing well, there is also a more subtle and profound, even existential, relationship between our breath and the Universe. As we become aware of the real animating force of the breath we can align ourselves with the breath of the Universe, that which animates and inspires all. By giving the breath this vital place it can become a conduit for subtler, elemental forces to come alive within the body (Vayus) allowing gateways to higher realms to open.
The word Spirit in English and Esprit in French, both have their etymological roots in the Latin spiritus, meaning breath, wind, and inspiration. Our elders understood this principle, it shows us how truly inseparable the breath is from the Universal animating principle. As we inhale (inspire) we absorb and channel this force within, as we exhale (expire) we release and abandon ourselves into this perpetual flow. Then:
That which breathes is the (Universal) mind.
Within this flow is an eternal transitioning, a permanent fluxing of in and out, of mobility and immobility, each one dissolving effortlessly into the other. It invites us to be present to each precious moment without giving more value to one thing over another, to attend to each moment with equal attention, weight and worth.
Within this awareness questions can arise such as:
Where am ‘I’’ within this?
Where do ‘I’ reside?
Who dwells, unchanging, within this tiding?
Are we going beyond the individual soul, Jivatman, and into the realms of the Universal soul, Paramatman?
The word Jiva originates from the Sanskrit jivás, with the root jīv- 'to breathe'. Ātman is a Sanskrit word which means essence, breath, soul, and is related to etmen, a root found in Sanskrit and German which also means 'breath'.
Some mystics say that an aspect of Paramatman resides within the heart of each human being and acts as an observer, a witness, offering guidance and enlightenment from within. Perhaps this is the unchanging aspect of Self that resides within the tidings of human experience?
It seems to me that these aspects are in fact infinitely interpenetrating, which makes me think of the term ‘Adesha’, which Nath-Yogis use as a salutation to greet each other. It is a way of acknowledging the play of this divine interpenetration within each and every one of us. Gorakshanath the Maha Yogi wrote:
Aatmetu paramaatmeti jiivatmeti vicaarane
Trayaanaam aikya-samshutir asdes’s iti kiirtitah
Which translates as:
In our relative thought we distinguish between Atman, Paramatman, and Jiva. The Truth is that these three are one and a realization of it is called Adesha.