Pillars of Power: 3 Ways the Breath Is Key in Baptiste Yoga

Master Baptiste Yoga teacher Leah Cullis explains how learning how to breathe helped her tap into her power on and off the mat.
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Master Baptiste Yoga teacher Leah Cullis explains how learning how to breathe helped her tap into her power on and off the mat.
Leah Cullis performs Prayer.

YJ's upcoming online course, Pillars of Power Yoga, features Leah Cullis, a master Baptiste Yoga teacher who will lead an athletic and spiritual immersion into the 5 core pillars of Baptiste Yoga: drishti, breath, foundation, heat, and flow. Sign up now for Pillars of Power Yoga to learn more about Baptiste Yoga and be the first to know when this fitness- and focus-boosting course launches. Here, she explains how learning how to breathe helped her tap into her power on and off the mat.

In my previous career, I worked on political campaigns and slept next to my BlackBerry. I was constantly living life in my head—I always had an eye on political blogs and what was happening outside of me. When I started practicing Baptiste Yoga, which is so deeply physical, it required me to stay connected to my breath in order to stay in my body and in my power.

3 Reasons the Breath Is So Key in Baptiste Yoga

1. The breath is your entry point to all of yoga's benefits.

One of my favorite quotes from Baptiste Yoga founder Baron Baptiste is, "The breath is the key to unlocking your body's potential." In Baptiste Yoga, the breath is a way of clearing your space and letting go of what you must, moving out any stagnant energy on the exhale, and creating space for something new on the inhale. When we're doing poses without breathing, we could actually create blocks, discomfort, or tension within our bodies. Breath carries the prana, or life force energy, throughout your entire body, and linking breath with movement amplifies the results.

2. The breath is your anchor for mindful awareness.

In Baptiste Yoga, we coordinate one breath per movement (during the vinyasas) or hold poses for 5 breaths. We use the breath as an anchor, a reminder to come out of your head and back into your body. I like to think of it as a metronome for awareness.

3. The breath is your body's gauge during asana practice.

If you notice that your breath, which is a tool for being present, is getting lazy or automatic, that's your inner body's cue to bring more attention or purpose to each breath. If your breath is labored, that's a cue from within to take it easy or go into Child's Pose—to come out of the flow and back into your center.

With practice and commitment to breathe on the mat, I started to wake up to the benefits of adding breath into my life. I started to take breaks from technology and become more present with the people in my life. Breath is a way of plugging back into what is most important in the moment.