“If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.” — Andrew Weil
At a recent Yoga class, the teacher mentioned the importance of breathing and how it is our companion for life. Breath is so much more than just oxygen supply; its the one thing that remains constant and keeps us alive. Morihei Ueshiba said, “Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together.”
Notice a new-born child sleeping. Just watching the child take deep breaths while he/she is asleep is meditative. You will see the abdomen expanding and contracting to its full capacity; this is nature. When we are born, it is natural for us to take deep breaths but as we grow up, our breath tends to become more and more unconscious and shallow. Our breath becomes shorter and never reaches the abdomen, and we think we are breathing normally.
Unconscious breathing is an ailment caused due to the modern day lifestyle. The fast-paced, always-on-foot life has led to wrong posture, constant slouching in front of the laptop and computers, no time to exercise and business suits that doesn’t let our skin breathe. How many times do you say to yourself, “Just breathe”? We are constantly exposed to situations where we actually find ourselves out of breathe.
Breath is the life-force energy or Prana. Our heart beats because of the breaths we take and due to this natural bodily function, energy is disseminated to each and every part of our body. Unconscious and disordered breathing can lead to heart and respiratory diseases, muscle cramps, numbness, reduced cognition, panic attacks, superficial blood flow which in turn can lead to host of diseases. Therefore, its crucial and advisable to practice conscious breathing.
What is conscious breathing?
The conscious act of breathing involves inhaling oxygen deeply, holding your breath for 3-4 seconds and then exhaling slowly, till you can’t feel any sensation near your nose. Following this simple technique brings a great amount of positive changes to your body, mind and soul. This should be practiced daily for as long as you can. It is as important as sleeping and eating.
A combined research published in 2013 demonstrated that slow breathing increases alpha waves in the brain calming the mid-range waves which helps in inducing alert yet relaxed state of mind. It leads to burst of energy as million cells get rejuvenated which were starving due to unconscious breathing. Conscious breathing also helps in reducing stress levels, blood pressure, muscular tension, and much more.
Additionally, calm and conscious breathing has spiritual benefits which again can bring another shift in the way you approach your life. Conscious breathing demands you to be in the present, and when you are mindful of the present, you aren’t loaded with thoughts of the past and future.
Breath is powerful. As you breathe consciously, you become aware of your life force – in that awareness, you discover joy and positive emotions, and all the mindless thinking just dissolves. “Just breathe” are two magical words that you should always remember and practice. It will lead to a balanced mind that swims in the realm of peace, truth and serenity.
“When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. . . . When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing; no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki
This video demonstrates the art of conscious breathing. Take one breath at a time!