To master breathing is to master life :

Posted by-Kalki Team

There is a Chinese saying — A baby breathes from the belly, an adult from the chest, an elderly person from the throat, and a dying person from the mouth. For anyone sincerely interested in self- healing and spiritual cultivation, its important to understand breathing and the right breathing technique.

Chennai: Fifty million is the approximate number of breaths you will take in a lifetime presuming you live to be eighty years old!! Now imagine, what if we had a limited number of breaths that we could take in our lifetime? Then, to expand our lifespan, we should slow down our breathing. If we reduce the number of breaths per minute, then our lifespan would be proportionally extended. This is the conviction of every Indian yogi. They regard breathing as the most important of all bodily functions. For them and innumerable spiritual practitioners around the world, to master breathing is to master life.

Yoga and breathing are deeply connected. When performing asana, pranayama and meditation, the correct breathing technique is essential to get the full benefits of the practice. Yogic breath is the natural breath.

All living creatures breathe. Breathing is mostly an unconscious process controlled by the central nervous system. It goes on from birth to death, even if we are not aware of it – even in our deep sleep. If this process of breathing gets disturbed, then changes can happen in the natural breathing pattern over a period of time. This disturbance can be caused by many reasons ranging from anxiety, mental stress, bad postures and unhealthy habits.

Yoga teaches us how to use the lungs to their maximum capacity and how to control the breath. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmic. This increases vitality and mental clarity. Most people use only a fraction of their lung capacity for breathing. They breathe shallow, barely expanding the ribcage. Their shoulders are hunched, they have painful tension in the upper part of the back and neck, and they suffer from lack of oxygen. They should learn full yogic breathing.

There are 3 types of breathing, clavicular, thoaracic and deep abdominal breathing. A full yogic breath is the combination of all the three.

To learn the right breathing technique and to understand it better, we have to observe the natural breathing in an infant. As babies we breathe naturally, without any distortion. If you look at a baby during sleep, the breath is slow and rhythmic. The belly goes up while inhaling and down while exhaling, expanding and contracting with ease. This is a fully relaxed breath.

However, as babies grow and become more aware they tend to mimic the older kids and adults around them and unfortunately most of us tend to breath the reverse. To make it easier, think of a balloon and what happens when you fill it up with air? It expands and when you let the air out, it contracts. The same logic applies — as you inhale your abdomen should expand and vice versa. When we are relaxed, we breathe from our abdomen. When we are tense, the breath tends to be short and comes from the chest and the neck region. A full deep breath happens when the diaphragm moves downwards causing the belly to expand fully, along with the chest and neck region.

So just place your hands on your abdomen, feel it expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. You could also lie down and practise this. Remember through your breath, you can control your mind.

The benefits of this pranayama are incalculable. All the muscles are relaxed. All the nerves are toned. Rhythm and harmony are established in the entire being. Mind is calmed. Circulation is promoted. An inexpressible peace and bliss come to reign within you.

—The writer is a certified international yoga instructor and owner of Old Mercara, a brand of homemade ice creams, honey, jams and squashes

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