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Breath: The Eternal Prana

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

The difference between animate and inanimate is of breath. All living things breathe; oxygen is also called Pranavayu. Prana (life energy) in our body is replenished by breath and food which comes from living beings – veg or non-veg. Can we increase oxygen or Pranavayu in our system by altering the way we breathe? One way is Pranayama but we can’t do it all the day. Breathing constantly keeps adding Prana but most of the time we breathe shallow, that is, when we inhale our chest heaves more. We can check it by counting our breath for one minute. Higher breath rate (more than 12) indicates shallow breathing. If we change our breathing from shallow to deep (fewer number of breaths per minute), oxygen intake would be more.

However, for most of the human beings, breathing is an unconscious activity; we are rarely aware of our breathing. We need to inculcate the habit of breathing deep, consciously. Deep breathing not only increases the oxygen in our blood but there are psychological and spiritual advantages too. Breath is the only medium which connects all three – body, mind and soul/energy. Only breath can give us access to our mind and energy system. {read more about it in my Blog: Breath-the Eternal Prana (Part 2)} That’s why most of the spiritual traditions lay emphasis on some kind of breathing practice.

Let’s try to understand it. Children till the age of about 4-5, breathe deep, which means, when they inhale, their stomach protrudes out. That is the natural way of breathing with which we come to this planet. No wonder, a child remains happy without any reason without any baggage of the past. As the mind (the notion of ‘I’) develops, the child loses this deep breathing. The breathing becomes shallow or thoracic; our chest expands more when we inhale. Nothing is wrong with that as development of mind (certain amount of ego) is necessary to function in this world. Mind only becomes a problem when we become a slave of it; our responses become automatic or we are unable to drop an undesired habit or we develop compulsive behaviour.

In the last two millenniums, humankind has been able to raise the standards of living but that didn't essentially improve our quality of life. The quality of life doesn’t mean comfortable living, air-conditioned home or transport, costly clothes, or fancy gadgets; that's comforts of life. Our quality of life is indicated by three things -- happiness, peace and contentment. We are still struggling with ourselves on a daily basis. Real happiness, which is not dependent on outside things or persons or processes, still eludes us. Good news is that conscious deep breathing can make us happy by keeping us in the present and by bringing changes in our biochemistry which, in turn, makes our body-mind healthier.

In the case of thoracic or shallow breathing only the upper lobe and little bit of middle lobe of the lungs get inflated. When we breathe deep, air enters the lungs to fill them completely, lower lobe of the lung pushes the diaphragm (a thin muscle layer separating heart-lungs from the lower internal organs) down during inhalation and the stomach protrudes out. The movement is reversed during exhalation. The oxygen exchange is maximum as more blood is located near the lower part of lungs because of gravity. The intake of Prana also enhances. Therapeutically, it helps in various diseases like hypertension, diabetes, endocrine imbalances (because of the gentle messaging of the abdominal organs/glands by the diaphragmatic movement). Apart from the medical benefits of deep breathing, it helps us to disengage from the continuous chatter of the Mind. In other words, deep breathing is helpful in managing emotions and thereby the biochemistry of the body.

Once we learn the technique of inducing the deep breathing and practice it for a reasonable period; the breath would become permanently deep once again, just like a child. Establishing the habit of continuous deep breathing is equivalent to doing Pranayama throughout the day. The increased oxygen supply in our body leads to enhanced energy, a glow on the face and better health.

It is very difficult to develop a new practice or to take out time in today’s busy life. So use technology to your advantage. Set multiple alarms in your mobile. Choose the time when stomach is not heavy. For quick results try to practice it for at least 4-5 times every day, it doesn’t take more than five minutes. If it is a bit too much, at least do it once in the morning and once just before you go to bed.

It is all the more relevant in the times of Coronavirus which hits the lungs. By doing this deep breathing practice, we can make our lungs stronger, increase its capacity so that oxygen exchange is maximised.

Learn the deep breathing technique. Watch it here (English narration)

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