Watch your Breath
Are you really breathing? Forget about taking time to appreciate nature, the question of the hour is if we do take time to really breathe? The answer is a big NO-NO. Surprised or not, research has shown that a majority of Homo sapiens breathe in just to tick over and not to really live healthy.
“The average human uses only one-tenth of his lung capacity.”
Such flawed breathing, be it shallow, quick or breathing through the mouth, is due to our pronounced attachment to the outside world ensuing in detachment from the self. We get so much involved in those mundane activities that the act of breathing is overlooked.
The unconscious faulty way of our breathing can stem from an array of reasons. The hustle and bustle of day-to-day life with increasing stress-levels and mood swings with negative emotions are few of the predominant contributing factors. Negligence augments to these and becoming an unhealthy part of our already sedentary lifestyle. But for this being rectified, permanent damage will be caused.
It is an alarming fact that over 80% of all body ailments caused, are due to the wrong kind and insufficient breathing. Quick shallow breathing results in oxygen starvation, which leads to reduced vitality, premature ageing, poor immune system and a myriad of other factors.
An editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggested that fast, shallow breathing can cause: Fatigue, sleep disorders, Anxiety, stomach upsets, heartburn, gas, muscle cramps, dizziness, visual problems, chest pain and heart palpitations, and on the extreme, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Yet another nerve-racking fact comes from a study done in Germany, back in 1947, which showed that when oxygen is withdrawn, normal body cells could turn into cancer cells!!
The cheery fact is that pattern is reversible. We should realize and accept that our behavior is to be changed and make the most of the breathing techniques. Pranayama translates into “restraint of the prana or breath” and is the science of breath control. Prana is the life force and the proper regulation of it equals healthy living.
The first rule for correct breathing is that we should breathe through the nose. To start of with, one can practice the basic techniques of Pranayama such as,
- Poorna pranayam
- Nadi sudhi
Each of these has its own specific set of pros, generally improving oxygen absorption.
The requisites for practicing Pranayama are an appropriate place, proper timing, nutritious food and an earnest, persistent effort to practice. Choose a calm and unobtrusive place. Use a clean yoga mat and practice every time in the same place as it helps focus better with ease. The right time to do Pranayama would be early in the morning between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m., or in the evening before the sun goes down (4p.m. to 7 p.m.). Never attempt to exercise immediately after a meal or while hungry. It will cause only discomfort.
The lotus posture – Padmasana, or Vajrasana can be adapted to practice Pranayama, according to which is comfortable to you. Correct posture is indispensably requisite for the successful practice of Pranayama. Chest, neck, and head must be in one vertical line. Do not bend the body either forwards or laterally, i.e., either on the right or left side and do not sit crooked.
Kapalabati means an exercise for making the skull shine (i.e. literally). In effect, it helps cleanse the skull. Kapalabati involves rapid forceful exhalation. Seated in the appropriate asana, exhale forcefully with no effort to inhale between successive exhalations. This should be done 15 to 20 times, concluding with a final deep inhalation and few slow breaths.
Poorna Pranayama is deep inhalation and exhalation to one’s peak ability. Inhale through the nostrils deeply taking in as much air as you can. Hold it for a few seconds and exhale completely through both nostrils. The cycle is to be repeated 10 times.
Nadi sudhi Pranayama is Alternate Nostril breathing which reduces stress and energizes the body. The Nadi Shuddhi mudra is held by stretching out the hand and folding in the index and middle finger. Inhale deeply through the right nostril while blocking the left with the ring finger. Then, exhale deeply through the left nostril, keeping the right blocked with the thumb and inhale through the same. Continue this alternate breathing cycle for around 10 times.
Sitkari Pranayamah helps control hunger, thirst and laziness. Inhale by opening the mouth a little, keeping the tip of the tongue touching the lower front teeth and then suck in the air slowly with a hissing sound C C or (Si Si). After holding breath, exhale through both the nostrils.
Bhramari is nasal snoring and imitates the humming sound of the bumblebee. It alleviates mental agitation and migraine pain. Inhale through your nose slowly and deeply. Exhale through both the nostrils while making a soft humming sound in the throat. Repeat 10 times.
All of the above are just a reference note and not instructions in all. Lessons from a professional Yoga practitioner are mandatory, unless you are planning to put yourself into trouble.
Breathe away those calories
Yes, you read it right! A solution to today’s much speculated ‘size-zero’ concept is the Chandra Bedhan, popularly known as left-nostril breathing. It helps lose weight and relax the mind. With the Nadi-Shuddhi mudra (mentioned in the Nadi-Shuddhi Pranayama), inhale and exhale through the left nostril while keeping the right nostril blocked using the thumb. This can be done 20 times at a stretch.
And for those who yearn to put on a few kilos to escape the skinny look, there is the Surya Bedhana or right-nostril breathing which helps gain weight and improve alertness.
Pranayama meditation is the prevalent and widely practiced form of Pranayama.
The state of the mind has an influence on the breathing pattern of a person. The three Gunas or qualities of the mind: Rajas (Activity), Tamas (Inertia) and Sattva (Balance) are clearly portrayed in one’s breath.
The Rajas quality indicates an agitated, restless and stimulated mind. A person with a rajas mind, whose breath when examined would predominantly be through the right nostril. The Tamas mind is lazy and inactive with the breathing largely through the left nostril. The Sattva quality denotes peace and balance, and a person with sattvic mind would display balanced breathing through both his nostrils.
Sattva is the idyllic, desirable state of mind that one must attempt to achieve, which Pranayama would aid in accomplishing.
In conclusion, as mentioned earlier, seek the advice of a professional yoga practitioner to avoid the ill effects due to erroneous technique, and exploit the benefit of Pranayama in its entirety.