If you have been practicing yoga for a while, you are familiar with the relationship between breath and movement. You understand that certain movements correspond to either an in breath or an out breath, each complimenting and facilitating the other. Over time the practice of linking breath to movement starts to feel natural, and you have to think less about the specifics as you flow through your practice. You find that you are able to breathe in a way that, for the most part, matches your practice.

There is an important aspect of this relationship of breath to movement that is often left out. Not only should breath be linked to movement, but the breath should initiate the movement. Even before your arms begin to rise in Sun Salutation, your inhalation should start. In this way, you use the energy of the breath to lift your arms. Likewise, before you fold forward, your exhalation begins and guides your descent.

Practicing yoga in this way—with the breath initiating movement—will change your practice. It will take you deeper into the practice in a way that heightens your awareness and participation. Sure, you will not be able to initiate every single movement with breath at first, but try to incorporate it as much as possible. You will see that it gets easier and begins to feel more natural. Just like everything else in yoga, it takes practice.

As you get more comfortable with beginning each movement on the mat with breath, you will notice that your breath becomes more even and deep, which confers a feeling of ease to your practice. Also, you may start to take this breath practice off the mat. You may find inhalation helps you up as you move from seated to standing, and the exhalation helps guide you as you sit down. Experiment with your breath this month to see how your practice evolves when you let the breath take the lead. It will open you up to some new experiences both on and off the mat.