Breathe and life span-
Author: Satyadev Mullapudi
In the Esoteric circles, it is believed that we are born with our quota of breathes. Hence, the slower and deeper we breathe, the longer we live!
The ancients understood this. The number of breathes is predetermined and is a part of genetic make up. The environment around us and the opportunities we are exposed to can definitely improve the quality and length of life by working on improving the way we breathe. Improving the quality of our breathing can really fast forward our evolutionary process and make us more intuitive.
Slow and deep breathing is also the foundation for equanimity which is the most distinguishing quality of a learned master, wise man or a realized soul. It is very similar to understanding elasticity of brain and working on improving it when hardwired brain structure is part of genetic make up.
We now know that the brain is elastic in many ways. For us to improve the elasticity of brain we need to ensure that we are open to new possibilities in learning, abstract thinking, learning a new language, new skills, music instruments, exploring possibilities in art etc which keeps the brain elastic and healthy. In the same way, we can work around our limited breathe span and live a long and healthy life with improved cognitive abilities and calmness.
The ancient yogis (wise ones) studied nature in great detail. They noticed that animals with a slow breath rate such as pythons, elephants, and tortoises have long life spans. Whereas, those with a fast breathing rate such as birds, dogs, and rabbits, live for only a few years. From this observation they realized the importance of slow breathing for increasing the human lifespan. Those who breathe in short, quick gasps are likely to have a shorter life span than those who breathe slowly, and deeply. On the physical level, this is because the respiration is directly related to the heart. A slow breathing rate keeps the heart stronger, and better nourished, and contributes to a longer life. Dogs on an average breathe around 40-50 times per minute and live around 12-20 years. Apes breathe around 30-50 times per minute and live 20-30 years. Humans breathe around 15 times i.e. average of 4 seconds per breath or 21600 times a day and live 70-100 years. Tortoises breathe around 3-5 times per minute and live about 150 years. In the present age due to stress and tension we humans breathe faster than 15 times per minute and have further reduced life expectancy. With practice, we can bring the number of breaths to 5-7 times a minute.
The way we feel is directly related to the way we breathe.
Just take a deep breath and note how relaxed your body becomes, how calm your mind gets. Of course, just breathing deeply will not melt away your worries and tensions, but it will definitely make your body and your mind better equipped to deal with the stress, think clearly, arrive at solutions and make plans rationally.
An emotionally stable and calm person will usually have a smooth and relaxed breathing That the quality of our life hinges on proper breathing was acknowledged by ancient Indian Yogis (knowledgeable persons), who developed an entire branch of Yoga, known as Pranayama, around breathing techniques. How could it be otherwise, when oxygen is so important for our survival! We can live without food, and even water for a few days, but we cannot live without oxygen for more than a few minutes. The brain requires it the most.
Otto Warburg won Nobel Prize twice, for proving that cancer cells cannot survive in an oxygen rich environment. Oxygen feeds the blood, which supplies food to all the parts of the body – the limbs, nose, eyes, tissues, ligaments, bones, etc. Proper breathing ensures proper supply of food and improper or shallow breathing means inadequate supply of vital ingredients to various parts of the body. Breathing out, or exhalation, is also a part of the breathing process. The body releases 70% of the toxins through breathing, while only 30% toxins are discharged through other processes like defecation, urination, sweating, etc. It doubles the importance of correct breathing – shallow breathing leads to accumulated toxins and waste products in your body. This creates pains and discomfort – un-explainable body aches, headaches– completely avoidable causes of stress. When all it takes is deep and proper breathing, why then we adopt breathing habits that cause pain and ill health?
Improper Breathing and Stress
A child’s breath is deep and slow. So is ours when we are relaxed and calm. The breathing becomes irregular, shallow and short during periods of anxiety and worry, and fear and anger. By the time you grow up to your adulthood, you leave behind the proper breathing habits. Now you no longer breathe deeply. You have switched over from Diaphragmatic breathing to Thoracic or shallow breathing. The shallow breathing requires you to breathe more to maintain an optimum level of supply of oxygen to the blood. You breathe 6 to 8 times in a minute when you breathe deeply; the breathing rate increases to 20 breathes a minute when breathing gets shallow. It puts more strain on your lungs and your heart- the two main organs directly linked to breathing. Negative emotions, like stress, anxiety, anger and fear which are an integral part of our lives, cause shallow and quick breathing. Prolonged periods of stress make our lungs inflexible and slowly we are incapable of breathing deeply. Lack of exercise and sedentary life-style, requirement to sit for long hours, adopting faulty body postures make our breathing shallow. Then there is pollution—both indoors and outdoors. The body habitually adopts shallow breathing to avoid taking more air than is absolutely necessary.
Harmful Affects of Shallow Breathing
When your breathing is shallow, the blood is not able to provide adequate amounts of food to all parts of the body. The result is lack of energy and tiredness. Your immune system becomes weak, and you are more susceptible to diseases. You start catching cold easily, and also become vulnerable to other ailments floating in your environment. Lack of supply can even cause cancer in those body parts where supply of oxygen has reduced drastically. In the absence of proper breathing, inadequate supply of oxygen to heart makes it week, you may develop hypertension or some other heart condition. If you suffer from high blood pressure, try to observe if it is due to shallow breathing. Just adopting deep and proper breathing can bring your blood pressure back to normal! Research has shown that lack of oxygen is one of the main causes of heart ailments. Lack of supply of oxygen to the brain might make you thinking less clear, and make you indecisive, confused and forgetful. The person might even become nervous and senile. Remember, brain is quickly affected by disturbances in the supply of oxygen.
Proper Breathing Reduces Stress
Deep breathing also increases the absorption of energy, enhancing dynamism, vitality, and general wellbeing. Deep breathing also helps to produce a deep stillness, calm, quiet and a state of God-communion.
Kriya Yoga (a yogic cult) practitioners say that man is made up of two other bodies; besides the gross one we can see and touch. Those are the astral body and the causal body and are apart from the physical body. Breath (called Prana, in Sanskrit) is the crucial link between man’s astral and physical bodies.
The whole science – and art – of breathing, starts with awareness of what we are doing. To do this means to know what the breath is doing. We must have an attitude of surrender, of being a witness, an internal researcher. Kriya Yoga (Yoga of breathing) has to do with developing an attitude of curiosity which lets you wander around the inside of yourself observing the way your breath operates.