The yoga of breathing – pranayama, has meant a lot to me since the 1980s, when I discovered that it could not only maintain my breathing capacity but also transform the way I respond to confrontational situations. That was because these breathing exercises, gradually introduced to you in Breath For Health, are traceable to a teacher, TKV Desikachar, who was the descendant of an ancient family of yogis, and these exercises reflect his clear, consistent and well-proven approach to breathing.

However, when I trained as a yoga therapist, over 30 years ago, our understanding of the breath was entirely experiential. I only took a deeper interest in the physiology of yoga in 2009 when I was training a group of people to be yoga teachers. The desire to offer teacher-training had led me into areas which, although esoteric, had deepened my general understanding of how we should breathe.

Moving on from teacher-training, I started some ‘Breath4Health’ classes at a local community centre to help people by applying my ideas. However, in March 2020, everything changed and my aim was to contribute what I could to the situation we faced by offering online teaching of breathwork. Out of these Zoom classes arose, by January 2021, the first draft of what became Breath For Health.

It helped me greatly in writing Breath For Health that, as well as being a yoga therapist, I am also a scientist. For 35 years, having first taken up an interest in practising yoga, then training to teach yoga and finally running courses for people to become yoga teachers, I managed all this alongside a busy and at times world-leading role in a niche area of defence-related research. I’m sure it was yoga, especially the pranayama, that gave me this energy, well into my sixties.

Regarding qualifications, I am a Senior Adviser to the Society of Yoga Practitioners whose parent institution in India (the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram or KYM) was founded by TKV Desikachar in 1976. This was in honour of his father, T Krishnamacharya, a near-legendary figure in the history of modern yoga, who taught BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi, K Patthabi Jois and many others. The KYM, which I have visited and studied at many times, is an immense reservoir of understanding in yoga therapy, is recognised locally as a healthcare provider and is one of India’s leading yoga institutions.

Last year, I had the honour to be elected Chair of the British Council for Yoga Therapy. Our mission is to maintain high standards of training for yoga therapists, which are agreed with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, which is responsible to the UK Government for maintaining voluntary regulation of this sector.

My scientific background (I am a Fellow of the UK Institute of Physics) has enabled me to draw on recent research into the physiology of breathing and communicate with researchers and practitioners. My teaching experience means I can translate this scientific understanding into clear accessible explanations. These include my unique insights into the human breathing cycle and its physiological needs, as well as the psychological potential of more effective, healthy breathing, as reflected in Breath For Health.

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