Breathing is the most important thing in human beings. We can only live without it for a very short time. Nowadays we are living in a super-fast society, especially in Western cultures and for that we are breathing faster and we also have less quality in our breath. Thankfully we are becoming more and more aware of the breath and how good quality of the breath can be very beneficial for us. But how does this all work? And how can we make our breathing habits better?
The average person breathes 16 times per minute. To improve that breaths can be fewer per minute and more effective. So, I wonder why we are not taking deeper breaths. My theory working as a nurse and Yoga instructor is that I see and feel that people are too stressed, nervous, afraid, in pain, etc. or they are not taking good enough care of their health that can, for example, give them lung diseases. All of this will for sure affect the breath in a negative way.
Deep breaths can be very beneficial for us and our health. When we take deep breaths the air can reach out to the bottom of our lungs where most of the alveoli are located. There will be the gas exchange and from the alveoli, the oxygen goes to our whole system and releases Co2 out from our body that we don’t need anymore.
Breathing should always go through our nose, or for the most part. The reason for that is the nose warms up the air that we breathe in and also cleans it. One friend of mine always says “Nose for breathing, mouth for eating” and that is something to have in mind on a daily basis.
To increase our breathing habits it is important to make our diaphragm strong. The diaphragm is a muscle located between our lungs and the abdomen and makes our breathing doable. If we make that muscle stronger it will change our breathing habits during the day and even night – the time that we are not thinking about it too much. If this muscle is strong and flexible it will increase more movement and therefore even more space for the lungs to fill up. In that case, we will be more able to take deeper breaths. With awareness and breathing exercises we can heal and make our breath even more enjoyable.
With Pranayama breathing techniques coming from Yoga practice we can make the diaphragm stronger. The most effective practice that I have learned related to this is a technique called Makarasana or the crocodile. How it’s done is that you simply lay on the ground, on your belly with your legs apart – toes facing to the side, arms above your head, holding elbows, letting your forehead rest on your forearms and breath. Breath deep, to the bottom of your lungs, so your belly moves out with every inhalation and releases with every exhalation. To increase the practice you can place a block or even a book on your back and feel how it lifts up and moves down with your breath. Daily practice of this makes your diaphragm super strong and your breathing will not even move your chest, only the belly and lower ribs will move in a beet with your breath. And then you know you are breathing with your diaphragm.
If you really look at the words inspiration and expiration that makes respiration – it all includes the word spirit. So what we really are doing is that we are breathing spirit. Prana means life force energy and with those breathing techniques and good body posture, we really or letting the Prana flow through our body without effort. Prana is a part of the Nadi system that we clean with those kinds of exercises. Old stuck emotions can be cleaned out when Prana starts to move. When that happens everything will be with ease. We will also feel balanced and we will be more able to deal with our ups and downs that happen through our life. With Pranayama exercises we are cleaning our body, mentally and physically.
Those breathing techniques not only apply oxygen to our body or cleans our Nadi system, but they also have a huge effect on our nervous system. When the breath is deep, slow and relaxed it truly calms everything down; our mind, lower our heartbeat, release tension in our muscular system, etc. and need for food and sleep will be less. We can definitely tell if a person is happy and relaxed by the way she breath compare to a person who breath fast and short. Then the opposite will happen to our nervous system. And that tells us that we can with our breath have a huge effect on how we feel each time.
For such a long time ago, thousands of years, the Yogis knew the power of the breath. Then and now some of them were and are able to live without taking a breath – or at least very few breaths per minute. When you see a Yogi it is super hard to know their age. You feel that they are much younger than they actually are. If we look at how we protect our food from being expired we keep it away from oxygen – the same thing might be happening to them. So what happens with good practice we open the way for the air to come into our body – the air flows effortlessly to our lungs without taking a breath. This can also happen in a deep state of meditation. We actually can live without taking a breath. Nowadays we are often looking for happiness from the external world, so fulfillment with all kinds of stuff. But I think when people realize how much happiness it can include having a good quality of breath, the world will change.