Breath is Life!
If you ever been to a yoga class or tai chi or any other mindful movement class, you must’ve heard endless praise to deep breath. Instructors can go on and on about diaphragmic breathing, about engaging the entire ribcage and abdominal muscles and about staying mindful while doing all this. The truth is, the rhythm and the depth of your breath directly affects the state of your mind and the health of your body. According to yoga and ayurveda, breath is a carrier of Prana, the Energy, that gives life to the body. No breath, no life and no energy!
Even if you don’t believe in energy and Prana, you still can’t live without breathing. Some even claim to live on air alone! Breatharians claim to need only air to nourish their body and consumes no food and no drink. Okay, this might be too extreme and, to my knowledge, no breatharian ever was observed closely enough to support his/her claims but it is definitely an interesting concept. I am not encouraging you to stop eating, nor I am planning to do it but I would like you to pay more attention to your breath.
Here are some benefits of deep conscious breathing are:
1. Breath = Life. Literally. If I come up to you and close your nose, you will fight for breath. Our energy level depends in a big part on our breath. The better (fuller) you breathe, the more energy you will have. Taking deeper breaths will bring in more oxygen in to the body and improve your energy levels. Think oxygen cafe!
2. Deep Breaths = Less Stress and Better Digestion. Slow deep breaths help to activate parasympathetic nervous system which is when the body gets the chance to recuperate, regenerate, and heal. Very important to help keep a healthy immune system and get out of our “flight or flight state”. Those of you suffering from poor digestion, bloating, or constipation will benefit from learning how to put your body into “rest and heal” state and activate parasympathetic nervous system. This is the only state when your body can digest food efficiently.
3. Deep Breaths = Less Inflammation! There is a lot of talk about how cancer and many diseases can only live in an acidic body. Deep breathing is said to reduce the acidity level of the body making it more alkaline reducing your risk. I think it is partially because it reduces the stress levels which when elevated can increase the acidity levels.
4. Deep breath = More Awareness. The more awareness you have in the present moment, the more likely you are to connect with your intuition or internal teacher. Your body knows how and what to feed itself to be healthy, how much and how often to move, and how much to rest. It is a matter of learning to listen to that voice and understand it. The slower you breathe, the more likely you are to hear that internal teacher. When you breathe slowly, it is almost impossible to overeat or to hurt yourself exercising.
5. Slower Breaths = Better Relationships. Most relationships would be better if people were less reactive. Can you imagine if instead of saying something mean, you were able to mentally step back and chill before talking? Wouldn’t that be nice? The state of your mind affects the breath, the reverse is true as well. When you are angry are breath is fast and shortened. When you are relaxed, your breath is slow and complete (hopefully!). The next time you are arguing with someone try taking longer deeper breaths. Notice how that can quickly reduces anger and allows you to look at the situation from a new perspective.
A good thing about breathing: you can do it anywhere and anytime and it does not cost anything! Even 5 minutes of slow deep conscious breathing once or twice a day can make a huge difference. When you catch yourself breathing a shallow breath into your chest or not allowing yourself to complete exhales, slow down. Take a few deep breaths to remind yourself what it should be like.
Question: What is your breath like? Have you tried pranayama (yoga breathing exercises) and what effects have you noticed? Leave a comment and share you breathing experiences!
PS: If you want to breathing exercises and powerful meditation techniques with my teacher, Swami Paramananji in his ashram in India this March, there is still time to join our Yoga and Meditation Adventure!