“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices
Probably one of the most important functions of our body, breathing, is vital for our existence; something everybody knows but may not be aware of, and often don’t realise. A breath is so precious; what is it? It is oxygen keeping your cells alive, and purifying your blood stream and helping you cure diseases. But do we know the right way to breathe?
Ayurveda perceives breathing to be a subconscious yet a very vital activity in one’s life. One may survive for months without food, water or sleep, but without oxygen, hardly a few minutes. Controlling and observing one’s breath is an important practice in yoga. It is called prana yama. Pran translates to breath of life, and ayama meaning control. Breathing prana means to breathe in vital energy to perform life functions.
What breathing does to your body?
Breathing completes 2 functions of your body.
- It helps in the intake of oxygen, essential for functioning of body.
- It helps remove carbon dioxide from the body, which is toxic to the body.
Balance of o2 and co2 in the body:
The body might sometimes not be able to throw out co2 as much as the oxygen that is being taken in. Too much co2 then causes the blood to be more acidic, which is why there requires being proper amounts of both in the body. More of oxygen is always appreciated by the body but co2 might get you weak.
How breathing incorrectly lacks your body of essential nutrients:
Psychologically speaking, incorrect breathing can make you feel ‘spaced out’ and can further lead to panic attacks, dizziness, insomnia and extreme fatigue. Incorrect breathing might as well lead to hyperventilation which is the road to palpitations and the feeling of anxiety (being out of control) Apart from this; your body organs will lack proper blood flow.
What effects does it have on your better health?
Modern times have seen the face of critical problems of rising air pollution, the depletion of the ozone layer, green house effect and global warming. The plants have gone down in number which is why people are dying of breathing related problems. In this fast paced life, we may think that we’re breathing just fine, not realising the extent to which the air has grown toxic, and that we’re actually breathing in poison. The poison which has in some ways accumulated in our body. We fail to realise that we’re not breathing correctly and this is why we fall ill so often.
For instance, the pollution level of a city should not exceed more than 40 points, and here, in Delhi, the levels have risen to a horrifying 415 points. And we, living here, still feel that we’re breathing fresh air as we step out in the balcony breathing in the morning breeze.
Along with taking measures to curb pollution levels in our surroundings, we must make sure that you’re firstly breathing right.
How can I breathe correctly?
Here, I’ll be introducing ways that will help you breathe well, breathe better
- Yoga meditation
Some of the best ways to breathe correctly and improve airflow in your body is given by yoga:
- Anuloma-Viloma (Alternate Nostril Breathing):
This asana is known to have calming effects on the nervous system, stimulates the digestive system and your appetite. It combats recurring headaches and insomnia. Apart from that it ensures consistent usage of the entire lungs to breathe in air and also purifies your blood.
- Sama Ortti Pranayama (Controlled Deep Breathing)
This asana is performed to strengthen the chest muscles, diaphragm, stomach and lungs. It has calming effects on the nervous system and mind; along with boosting the immune system. Also fights lethargy and depression while improving the functioning of the lungs.
- Kapalabhati (Cleansing Breath)
This asana cleanses the air passage, lungs, and ailments like sinuses cold, fever and asthma. It also very effectively stimulates the functioning of the liver, pancreas and the spleen which improves the metabolism of the body.
- Detoxifying herbs
Nature has in store, its own remedies in the form of potent herbs for cleansing your air passage. These herbs are known to aid better lung functioning and detoxification. Some of these are:
Eucalyptus: the refreshing aroma of this herb has been acknowledged worldwide to provide significant improvement in people suffering from respiratory ailments. This cleanses your respiratory system and also cures sore throats.
Oregano: this is a commonly found herb which contains the compounds carvacrol and rosmarinic acid. Both these compounds are effective decongestants, have positive effect of respiratory tract and breaks down toxic elements in the lungs.
Peppermint: peppermint contains menthol. Menthol is known to be a soothing element that decongests mucous from the respiratory tract, and aids easy breathing.
Chapparal: this is an herb mostly found in the west. It is known for its benefits of chest decongestion, fighting irritation and detoxifying the lungs.
- Technology that helps you purify air
Taking a step further, what you might want to do is, purchase one of the new technologies that were created just because of the rising pollution levels everywhere. It’s called the air purifier. This is a box like machine that filters the bacteria, dust and unwanted particles from the air. This has particularly proved beneficial for people who’re prone to allergies and respiratory infections.
Breath is Spirit. The act of breathing is living. And as Elizabeth Barrett Browning says, “He lives most life whoever breathes most air”. So this new year, make it a point to check on whether you’re breathing fine? And don’t take this most essential function of life, for granted. Concluding with a simple proverb, I wish you breathe to your heart’s fill every essence of joy, coming New Year, stay tuned for more on this topic in the upcoming articles.
Inhale and God approaches you.
Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you.
Exhale and you approach God.
Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.