Breath: A potent Life Elixer. (By Nathalie Feenstra)
Of course, we are all aware that without the breath there is no life. But have you given it any thought how much the quality of your breath and the quality of your life are interrelated. Life and breath are intimately connected. The way we breathe is directly influenced by the way we feel. As we feel calm, our breath is calm. As we are under influence of worries and stress, our breath becomes shortened and unsteady.
Did you know that the way you feel can in turn be influenced by the way you breathe. Yoga, teaches us to live free from tensions. One of the main reasons why yoga is so effective as it comes to reducing our stress levels is that yoga teaches us to breath calmly again. Our stress levels instantly drop when we focus on the breath. As we consciously breathe more fully and deeply the para sympathetic nervous system activates, lowering down the hearth rate, widening the blood vessels, relaxing body and mind.
He who breathes half, only lives half. In yoga they say you are born with a certain amount of breaths. A person breathing half only lives half. So as you deepen your breath your life will last longer.
Whether we choose to believe this or not, there certainly is some logic in it. A fast breathing rate is associated with tensions, fear , worries etc. which tends to lead to bad health, unhappiness and a shortened life expectancy. A calm breathing person is calm and happy which is conducive to longevity.
When the breath is shallow, only a selective part of the lungs will be used. This will make that the rest of the lungs are less ventilated and more vulnerable for germs to accumulate.
Deep breathing revitalizes the lungs fully, keeping them healthy. But also when you breathe deeply, the diaphragm moves down. This compresses the abdominal organs, giving them a continuous massage which helps to remove stale blood and so stimulates the intake of oxygenated blood.
When you are stressed or simply breathe shallow the abdominals are held still or even in a contracted state. The organs are missing out!
As we breathe calm and deep, the body has got more time for the exchange in oxygen and carbon dioxide more time to take in the nutrients it needs for its health.
Daily exercise is definitely recommended to keep the lungs functioning properly. When you live a sedentary lifestyle you will get great benefits when you daily spend a few minutes of your time to breathe properly. This will retrain the body and lungs to work more accurately during the day and instantly leaves you with a deeper sense of calm or peace that will last a while. As you feel nervous, angry or tired, treat yourself on a few minutes of breathing, it will do you wonders.
Sit comfortably with your spine elongated or lay down on the back in shavasana and relax the whole body. Inhale slowly and deeply, allowing for the abdomen to expand fully. Try to breathe so slowly that little or no sound can be heard. Feel the air reaching into the bottom of the lungs. At the end of the abdominal expansion fluently try to expand the chest upwards and outwards. As the ribs are fully expanded, inhale a little more until expansion is felt in the upper portion of the lungs around the base of the neck. The shoulders and collarbone move up slightly. Some tension will be felt around the neck. The rest of the body should be relaxed. This completes one inhalation.
The whole process should be one continuous movement. Each faze of breathing merging into the next without any obvious transition point. There should be no jerks or unnecessary strain. The breathing should be like the swell of the sea.
Now start to exhale.
First, relax the upper chest and neck. Then allow the chest to contract downward and inward. Then, allow the diaphragm to push upward and towards the chest. Without straining try to empty the lungs as fully as possible by drawing the abdominal wall as near as possible to the spine. The entire movement should be harmonious and flowing. Hold the breath for a few seconds at the end of the exhalation. This completes one round of yogic breathing. At first perform 5 to 10 rounds and slowly increase to 10 min. daily. (Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, Swami Satyananda Saraswati)