The Science of Breathing right:

Do you find yourself brooding over things a little too much?  Do negativity and restlessness loom large over you and you cannot seem to concentrate on one thing?

If you find yourself nodding away while reading the above lines, then let me tell you that you are not alone. While keeping up with the drudgeries of a fast-paced life, every other person is seen grappling with similar ailments.

But, the good news is this we can thwart these problems as well as many other chronic diseases and lead a happy and fulfilled life by merely breathing right. Yes, the practice of ‘breathing right’ or Pranayama as we call it.

Pranayama or ‘controlled breathing’ has been an indispensable element of Yoga discipline and is one of the eight limbs of ‘Ashtanga Yoga’.

What is Pranayam?

‘Prana’ means the universal life force and ‘ayam’ means to lengthen or regulate.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras define pranayama as – “Tasmin sati svasaprasvasayor-gativicchedah pranayamah This roughly implies- Regulation of breath or controlling one’s inhalation and exhalation which is attained when one sits in a steady posture.

Significance of ‘Prana’

Our body is like a taper of a candle and the mind is like the glow that illuminates the space around. ‘Prana’ is the universal life force which permeates through numerous energy channels called ‘nadis’ and energy centers where energy channels meet called ‘chakras’. The quantity and quality of ‘prana’ and the way it flows through these ‘nadis’ and ‘chakras’ in a human body ascertain the state of being of the individual. So, if the flow of the ‘prana’ is smooth, steady and all-pervasive, our mind would consequentially be calm and emanate positivity. But, most of us are ignorant to the therapeutic benefits of pranayama and as a result, the ‘nadis’ and ‘chakras’ in an average human being are blocked leading to an array of physical and mental maladies.

You would be astounded to know that our breath is an innate healing tool which is available to us at all times and which has the power to dispel a lot of our ailments and ensure our physical and mental well being.

Pranayam is considered extensive or subtle in concurrence with its three basic components- the external, the internal and the steady. When you expire your breath, it is called Rechaka which is the first type of Pranayam. On the other hand, when you draw in your breath, it is termed as Puraka. The retention of breath is known as kumbhaka.

Making Pranayam a way of life

It is a known fact that 70% of our body’s waste products are eliminated through our lungs while the rest comes out through the urine, skin, and feces. When the efficiency of our lungs is diminished owing to poor breathing, lesser oxygen is available to our cells which slow down the flow of blood that carries wastes from the kidneys and lungs.  As a result, our lymphatic system which is responsible for fighting off viral and bacterial invaders becomes weak coupled with a slow digestive system. Hence, it is evident that ‘right breathing’ is pivotal for our complete well being.

Break the mould of ‘stress’ by ‘mindful breathing’

The day has just begun but you are already feeling fatigued? You have an important presentation lined up but cannot focus? A simple breathing exercise known as ‘Equal Breathing’ or ‘Sama Vritti’ can come to your rescue:

Close your eyes. Slowly count to four as you inhale. Take a moment at the top of your inhalation with the lungs full of air. Then also count to four as you exhale. Again take a moment to feel empty. Then inhale again to another count of four. Continue the pattern.

This exercise which matches the lengths of your inhales and exhales is bound to reduce your stress levels significantly and calm your nerves.

You can try this simple breathing exercise and experience the joys of  Pranayama or ‘mindful breathing’.

What we seek lies within us

Sage Manu had said, “Let the defects be burnt up by Pranayama’. What we seek lies within us. All we need is to wake up and embrace the mystical yet therapeutic powers of ‘pranayama’ and breathe our way to health and bliss.