The fundamental force of life is breath. Someone rightly said that breath is the only thing that we receive from the world for free, when we are born, and it’s the only things that we have even when we die. In ancient India, yogis devised a way to reach a state of being that was beyond things like personality and behaviour, it was the essence of the spirit of a human.
They reached the spirit through controlling the breathing in a person. They realised that breath was the one entity that had carefully intertwined the physical body with the mental body and eventually the spirit of a human being.
Breath is free. This is probably why people take it for granted, but what people don’t realise is that it is also as essential as it is free. Our daily breaths have been polluted for so long. Even the air that is the source of breathing has been polluted so badly, that one has to really work on clearing the pollution that has entered the system through breathing.
Yoga practitioners know and hold in great regard, the benefits of breathing well. Yoga practitioners flock to places that are still not polluted to learn yoga teacher trainings. Places where the air is still clear and pristine enough to reenergize your system thoroughly. There are health retreats in Nepal, a Himalayan country where the air is still crisp and clear. Yoga retreats in Nepal see a good number of practitioners for this very reason.
Breath is the only constant that one has throughout their lives. Breath control can help achieve literally everything that one can think of in their picture of a wholesome life. A branch of yoga called the Pranayama Yoga is all about culturing this life force.
What are the main causes of a life that is not joyful? The stress, the anxiety, the tension and the diseases that follow… and how does breathing practices defeat all of these problems?
Many researchers in the medical community have noted the worthy benefits of deep breathing, in the daily lives of people. These benefits include:
- Relaxation of muscles
- Reduction of depression and anxiety
- Increase in the energy levels
- Reduced feelings of overwhelming and stress
- Stable blood pressure levels
The initiation of stressful thoughts causes one’s sympathetic nervous system to trigger a fight or flight response, which gives the body a lot of energy to fight that threat. This surge in energy levels causes rapid breathing, shallow breathing and eventually causing the person to feel short of breath. At this very moment the body also releases hormones such as adrenaline, epinephrine and cortisol that create a surge in blood pressure.
In this situation, deep breathing automatically reverses the effects of this stress. The parasympathetic nerve stimulates the main nerve called the vagus nerve that helps slow down the heart rate calming the body and mind along with stabilizing the blood pressure.
The branch of Yoga that works on breathing is called Pranayama Yoga. Prana meaning breath and ayama meaning control, Pranayama translates to breath control. There are many techniques within the Pranayama yoga techniques that work on breath-control. These techniques instantly reduce the stress causing elements in one’s daily life.
Some of them are:
- Alternate nostril breathing:
In this technique, start with sitting cross-legged on the floor with your spine straight. Now with your thumb, close your right nostril and take a deep-slow breath with your left nostril. While you reach the extent of your breathing close your left nostril and breathe out slowly with your right nostril.
Now for the second round, breathe in from your right nostril and breathe out from your left nostril.
This way you alternate your nostrils breathing deeply. This technique is best for grounding while in an anxious state of mind. This technique immediately calms your mind.
- Energizing breathing:
Start with sitting in a cross-legged stance with your spine straight. Now while keeping your neck, head, shoulders and hands relaxed and still; forcefully inhale and exhale from your nose. While performing this kind of breathing you will feel your belly expand and contract as you inhale and exhale respectively. Do a set of 10 breaths while carefully experiencing the different sensations in your body.
This technique re-energizes when you may be feeling sluggish and a loss of energy.
These two Pranayama techniques are amazing stress relief and re-energizing methods, which keep you in control of your breath throughout the course of your day.