Have you ever pondered on this one simple fact: that our breath is what keeps us alive? Chances are you haven’t given it much thought because breathing is an involuntary action, automatic and spontaneous and you tend to take it for granted. Worse still, because you don’t think about your breath you really don’t know how you are breathing and remain unaware of it even as you are reading this now.
And here’s the bad news: our contemporary living and lifestyle keeps most of us sedentary and slouching on a chair for long hours at a stretch possibly looking at a computer or some other gadget. Little do we know that this seemingly innocuous action is relentlessly and insidiously diminishing our lung capacity?
Technology, stress, staying indoors and simply working too hard, unknown to us, contracts the muscles of the arms, chest and neck. The muscles of the thorax that control the rhythmic breathing actions in turn become tight and restricted over a period of time.
Instinctively our lungs inhale less air as a reaction to these maladies -along with pollution-the other huge and looming villain of this scenario.
Shallow breathing and engaging only about 1/10th of our lung capacity has become a part of our modern lives …and sadly we remain ignorant of this situation.
The Ancients of India were immensely smarter than us it seems.
When the breath is restricted the mind is disturbed. By controlling the breath, The yogi achieves a steadiness of the mind.
HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA
(In Sanskrit – “Chale vate chalam chittam nischale nischalam bhavet; yogi sthaanusvam aapnoti tato vaayum nirodhayet”)
Not only did our great ancestors know the importance of the breath they were also fully aware of the critical connection between our primordial function of breathing and our mind.
The Yogis thoroughly comprehended many other essential facts:
- That oxygen inhaled with every breath purifies the blood stream which keeps the body ticking with good health and the brain recharged and renewed.
- That a recharged brain is a powerful tool to keep the mind healthy, razor sharp, mindful and engaged strongly with the present.
- That this focussed sharp brain housed in a healthy body is the reason for our being.
The result of this knowledge of the Wise was a comprehensive system of breathing techniques which will revitalize both the mind and the body: PRANAYAMA the art of the breath in Yoga.
Our forefathers knew this with their intuitive and experiential cognition.
Today, with our technology, science and limitless access to information shouldn’t our knowledge be exponentially better? Apparently not.
Let’s take a few moments every day to be more mindful of this basic life mechanism. Let’s watch how we inhale and exhale. And resolve to take steps to deepen this process with awareness.
Let’s wake up and take a deep breath of life… We owe it to ourselves!