The Power Of the Breath
“Improper breathing is a common cause of ill health. If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would simply be to learn how to breathe correctly. There is no single more powerful – or more simple – daily practice to further your health and well being than breath work.”
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Oxygen is the source of all energy in the body. Yogis call it Prana, or life force energy. This energy drives our metabolic processes. Interestingly, the most common killer of cells in our body is lack of oxygen. Furthermore, a study on rats by Dr. Harry Goldblatt showed that those with under-oxygenated cells developed cancer.
We can go 3 weeks without food, 2 or 3 days without water, but only a few minutes without breathing. The more oxygen we have, the higher quality of life we have in a physical, mental and spiritual capacity.
Breath work is the most efficient and effective way to overcome ourselves. 95% of our daily thoughts and actions happen on autopilot. Breathing exercises help us to take control of our lives by reminding us to be fully present. This puts us in a position to take control over the “action- reaction” mode, allowing us to choose to align with our authentic integrity and highest self.
If you live in either the past or the future, you can feel depressed, stressed, anxious and embarrassed. Focused attention on the breath brings you into the present moment where you feel naturally complete, confident and in the flow of life. Conscious breathing enables you to control your thoughts, which in turn controls your emotions, which control your actions, which control your habits and so your entire life.
Try and stand now and take a deep breath. Most probably your chest will come out, your head will go back, your shoulders go back and your stomach goes in. Breathing like this is only getting 50 – 70% of your total capacity. When most of us take a deep breath we push the diaphragm up to do this, so the stomach goes in and in actual fact you are collapsing the bottom half of your lungs.
The correct way to breath is from the belly. Nice deep breaths so the belly comes out.
Deep breathing allows for deep thinking.
If you are feeling depressed, in a bad mood, stressed, anxious, or about to have a panic attack, do Bhastrika breathing. Just do a forceful breath in, as you stretch your hands up in the air with open hands and fingers. Fill up your lungs fully then pause for a moment. Then, exhale forcefully, snap your arms back and hands to your shoulders, clench your fists and face as forcefully as you can. Repeat this cycle 10 times. This is also a great way to start the day and get your energy flowing.
Take a moment now to just be aware or your breathing. Is it rhythmic or hectic? Shallow or deep? Abdominal or in the chest? Many of us hold our breath without realising. Try a simple breathing meditation now, just keeping the breath normal as you count to 4 on the inhale, pause for a moment, then count to 4 on the exhale. Thoughts will appear, just don’t attach to them and let them drift on by. Bring your focus back to the breath and keep counting.
When implementing a new habit into your life it is crucial that you link it with an exist automatic action that you already have. Make a decision that the same automatic behaviour will trigger your breathing exercise.
So, incorporate breath meditation into your everyday activities, such as when you’re heading to the train station in the morning. As you’re walking along, simply be aware of your breath – breathing in for three strides, breathing out for four – and every time your attention wanders, bring it back to concentrating on your breath.
Personally, I find it highly beneficial to do conscious deep breathing while driving. It’s also a good idea to schedule your breath exercises every time you drink water.
Make the decision now to commit to harnessing the power of the breath.