Are you breathing the breath of life or just gasping?
We often take the process of breathing for granted. After all, we don’t have to think about it. It just happens, naturally.
However, good breathing can help us into good health. We only move a small percentage of the air with each breath, compared to our full lung capacity, and yet it brings enough oxygen to bring energy into the blood cells and via our circulation to every part of our body.
The ancients thought of it as bringing in life energy. Sometimes, when we are talking about breathing we use the words inspiration and expiration. We keep our spirit alive with each in breath, (in spire, in spirit) and when it stops and the spirit leaves, we expire.
So, more breath, more aliveness, more energy. We could also find that we feel calmer and more connected, less panicky, less stressed.
Physical Effects: Organ Toning and More
The first step in pranayama is training ourselves to use the entire range of our physical breathing apparatus. This means experiencing full yogic breathing—coordinating the lower, middle, and upper parts of the breath process—as well as learning to attenuate the outgoing breath. You can learn this type of breath from any qualified yoga instructor.
When we take full, slow, deep breaths through the nose, using all three sections of our breathing apparatus, a number of important things start to happen in our body. First, nose breathing filters the air, warms it, and keeps it moist. Thus the air arrives in the lungs in the best condition to provide efficient transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide. This is no small thing. Anyone who deals with breathing difficulties will tell you just how much dusty, dry, cold air aggravates their challenges. In addition, full breathing through the nose also stimulates some of the subtle nerve structures, beginning the process of bringing light and aliveness to our inner realms (more on this later).
A full breath also has significant impact on the processes of the abdominal cavity, where all of our main organs are located. As the diaphragm moves up and down, each of our abdominal organs moves also, sliding against one another, changing shape, tugging on its attachment tendons and fascia, and sloshing around any liquid or food it contains. These physical actions are crucial to the health of our organs, and thus to our quality of life.
Since many of us spend too much time sitting, we don’t get the movement we need to promote optimal health, especially in our abdominal cavity. Sitting at a desk, table, or in a padded television chair undermines proper breathing by promoting a “hunched over” or compressed posture that pinches the abdomen. This compromised posture leads to an over reliance on getting our breath from the middle and upper parts of our lungs, using our diaphragm inefficiently, and costing us the health-producing movement of our key organs. It may sound odd to credit a regular pranayama practice with improving both digestion and elimination, but if you practice regularly, you will see that this is what happens.
Take a look at the ‘Breath Easy’ blog for some easy pranayama practices.
You might just improve your health and well being….and your mood.