Breathing ~ Deeply
THE very first and most precious gift that we receive when we arrive in this world is the beautiful breath! It is our most dependable and trusted companion for the rest of our lives and the very last thing we let go of.
Breath brings the flow of oxygen or prana into our bodies. Prana is a Sanskrit word which means “force of life.” When someone dies in India, they say their prana has left them. It is the life force that keeps us alive. Every cell in our body needs this energy to survive. It can be in the form of oxygen that we breathe in or in the form of nourishment that we eat.
This live energy is carefully balanced with apana or the waste that every cell creates. This waste can be in the form of gases or CO2 that we breathe out or in form of liquid or solids that we excrete. Maintaining balance between prana and apana is essential. If we have excess apana in our bodies, we won’t be able to breathe in new prana or absorb nutrients in our food. Like a room full of clutter, we cannot decorate our room with new and beautiful things unless we get rid of old and useless stuff.
Try this simple, deep breathing technique for bringing a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively, into your life.
1. Sit straight in a chair or another comfortable spot.
2. Take a deep inhale through your nose. Feel your chest and then your belly expand.
3. If you can place one hand on your belly, try to let your belly expand with the hand, even a bit exaggerated.
4. Hold the breath for a moment.
5. Exhale gently through the nose. If you must use your mouth, purse your lips and let the air leave your body as if you are going to blow out some candles.
6. Rest for a moment.
A deep breath has four components: inhale, hold, exhale, rest. Inhale is always done through the nose. If you are holding for too long than you will not be able to control your exhale. The rest at the end of exhale is the moment when literally nothing happens. This allows the next inhale to have more vigor. Deep breathing can be done anytime and anywhere, except for a period of 1-2 hours after meals.
Try taking ten deep breaths first thing in the morning. You can do it sitting straight in your bed or at the edge of bed. This will start your day with extra oxygen to help you get through the day. It will also promote digestion and help clear your bowels. Drink a glass of room temperature water after the breathing session to help further with your bowels.
Before you hit the pillow at night, sit up straight in the bed and take ten deep breaths. Make it as slow and gentle as you can, bringing full attention to the breath. It might help to chant a mantra you like with each inhale and exhale to clear the whole day of mental chatter. This will help you sleep better and deeper and will also help you stay asleep by calming the mind.
Deep breathing will help you calm down and decrease anxiety. This happens by stimulating the calming part of the nervous system (parasympathetic nervous system) while it slows down the anxious part (sympathetic) of the nervous system related to the “fight or flight” response. When breathing is slower, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard and therefore heart rate and blood pressure can go down. By engaging the abdominal muscles, deep breathing can stimulate digestion and help with bowels. All of this relieves stress, promotes healing, induces mental calmness and increases concentration. It helps us be in the present moment and enjoy and appreciate every single breath.
Try incorporating deep breathing into your daily natural living routines and start healing yourself with the most basic gift you possess. The holistic health benefits are many!
By Ritu Kapur