I first became aware of the connection between breath and spirit in my studies of yoga because the word Pranayama means breath control. Prana literally means breath in Sanskrit. It also means spirit.
In English, the words spirit and respiration come from the same root, the Latin word spiritus. In other languages the pattern is the same. Let me be extravagant here in terms of examples:
- Greek: Pneuma means both “breath” and “spirit”
- Hebrew: Ruach means “breath”, “life” and “soul”
- Russian: Uses dusha for both “soul” and “breath”
- Swedish: Anda can mean both “breath” and “spirit”
- Japanese: A character pronounced “kee” is used in the words “kikotsu” (spirit, soul) and “kisoku” (breath, breathing)
- Romanian: Suflet means “soul” as well as [exhaling] “breath” (or blowing, as of the wind)
We can live for weeks without food. We can live for days without water. But being deprived of air for very few moments can disconnect our spirit from our bodies. The vital importance of breath for connecting body and spirit is, without doubt, the reason so many disparate languages have the two so intimately connected. The challenge would be to find a language that does not display a connection between the two words.
Just a little something for the brain to chew on . . .