We do it about 20.000 times a day and most of the time without paying much attention to it. What lies between our very first breath to our very last, is defined as life. I remember the first breath of my two children and the last breath of my dog Spugi.
When tragedy hit my life very recently, I knew the only way for me to make it through is by influencing my mind and body with breathing meditations. And whilst I am so grateful for the benefits that my morning meditation has brought me, I felt the urge to write this blog about breathing and its power. At the end of this blog post I mention the meditation app I am using.
So how can something that keeps us alive, thus so important, happen without us really paying attention to it?
What does breathing do besides sucking in air and releasing it out of your body? 'Breathing is the process of moving air out and into the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly to flush out carbon dioxide and bring in oxygen.' (Wikipedia)
That sounds simple and a rather physical process. But there is so much more to breathing. It can influence your nervous system, your mood, cure insomnia, reduce pain, influence your state of consciousness and touching your subconsciousness, your concentration and reaching moments of bliss, simply by paying attention or altering your way of breathing. Breathing in certain technics can help you relax or can help you improve your energy. Prana, as breathing is called in Hindi philosophy, means life force, energy, soul & spirit.
In all Oriental and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss. Similar concepts exist in various cultures, including the Latin anima, Islamic and Sufic ruh, the Greek pneuma, the Chinese qi, the Polynesian mana, the native American orenda, the German od, and the Hebrew ruah.
Indian philosophy describes prana flowing in nadis (channels) in the human body, radiating out from the heart, the Katha Upanishad says that 101 channels radiate from the heart, connecting the base chakra to the crown chakra, enabling prana to flow throughout the subtle body. When the mind is agitated due to our interactions with the world at large, the physical body also follows in its wake. These agitations cause violent fluctuations in the flow of prana in the nadis.
Whilst breathing and its impacts are known for thousands of years in oriental cultures, to us in the western world this is relatively new. And as with many of the things, we Westerners need proof to believe, namely scientific proof. It has been found that there are neurons throughout the central nervous system, which stimulate parts of the brain. These areas pertain to panic, sleep, and stress. Thus, one of the effects of breathing is directly related to such sensations. Breathing slowly and calmly decreases the activity of your neurons.
So, we can reduce our stress and anxiety levels just by breathing in specific ways. We can even handle panic situations much more effectively. It’s called controlled, rhythmic or deep breathing. Likewise, we can also use this effect of breathing in the opposite direction. We can breathe faster and more aggressively to activate and energise ourselves.This is precisely what the practice of both yoga and meditation is about.
So, what are the different breathing techniques and what immediate benefits do they bring? Yes, the benefit is immediate, it does not last forever and needs repetition. But as you have your breath with you all the time, there is nothing that withholds you from using it in a way to benefit you, regardless where you are. It takes a few minutes only.
I have complied a list of the techniques I know and practice:
Prolonged exhales - increases relaxation
I practise Om chanting, Kapalabhati and breath focus meditation every morning. It is a daily routine I won't miss for anything. The time I calculate for this is 30 minutes. Of course one has to make space in the usual daily schedule. To me it is part and parcel of a more conscious and holistic life style, where I can actually feel that I can be in charge of my emotions and physical wellbeing.
I hope I can interest you to follow path. I cannot imagine that I would have come through the recent past without my morning breathing meditation.
This is the meditation app I am using:
Balance - Meditation that adapts to you they offer all their plans for free this year!
Thank you for reading and stay safe, happy and healthy.
Thank you to Elijah-Hiett for the image.