“Take a deep breath” is a cliché that comes as an advice whenever you are stressed or tensed. Even if you understand that breathing slowly can relax your body and mind, very few of us are aware of the process that works behind the saying. The answer lies in our autonomic nervous system. Our heart rate, breathing, digestion, and so on are all automatic and does not involve us to think consciously about it.
Breathing, also known as ventilation contains two stages- inspiration and expiration. The outside intercostal muscle and the diaphragm contract in case of inspiration. During expiration the exterior intercostal muscles and the diaphragm relax, reinstating the original volume of the thoracic cavity. The diaphragm’s action is almost as automatic as that of the heart, although it may be transformed into a semi-voluntary muscle by an effort of the will.
When the diaphragm expands, it increases the size of the chest and lungs, and the air rushes into the vacuum thus, created. When it relaxes the chest and lungs contract and the air is expelled from the lungs. It forces air out of the lungs into the atmosphere. The breathing involves the air movement outside and inside of the thoracic cavity with exchanging gases in the lungs.
When the oxygen comes into contact with the blood, a form of combustion takes place. The blood takes up oxygen and releases the carbonic acid gas generated from the waste products and poisonous matter, which has been gathered up by the blood from all parts of the system. The blood thus, purified and oxygenated is carried back to the heart, laden with life, giving properties and qualities.
Not only is every part vitalized by the oxygen, but the act of digestion depends substantially upon a certain amount of oxygenation of the food, and this can be accomplished only by the oxygen in the blood coming in contact with the food and producing a certain form of combustion. The combustion arising from the change in the waste product generates heat and equalizes the temperature of the body. Good breathers are not apt to “take cold”, and they generally have plenty of good warm blood which enables them to resist the changes in the outer temperature.
According to science, learning how to manipulate your breathing or paying attention to it, is an effective way to lessen the regular levels of stress and recover from several health issues ranging from metabolism to mood. The autonomic nervous system’s role is to respond efficiently and instantly by switching our system dials in motion. For example, if you come in contact with a wild tiger, automatically your heart rate shoots up, and suddenly when everything seems secure and safe, the autonomic nervous system enters a state of relaxation or rest.
The main point to understand is that the entire system works automatically. Although the system works automatically, it is the breathing that can be controlled as per our will. It is part of both autonomic system and voluntary function. We may hold our breath or change our breathing pace. Breathing may be considered the most important of all the functions of the body, and indeed, all the other functions depend upon it.
Life is absolutely dependent upon the act of breathing. To breathe is to live, and without breath, there is no life. Not only is man dependent upon breath for life, but he is largely dependent upon correct habits of breathing for continued vitality and freedom from diseases. Are you aware of the correct ways of breathing? It is most distinctive in comparison to other visceral functions like digestion, cardiovascular, etc. that can be regulated voluntarily.
Breathing during Pranayama is usually performed during meditation and yoga. Pranayama is a yogic practice. It is the practice of controlled breathwork and is referred to as the inhalation, retaining and exhalation. It can either be slow, or quick and can be done in other / different ways, depending on the goal of the pranayama practice. There are plenty of different pranayama practices, each for a different purpose. For example, pranayama for heart opening, for increasing fire, for balancing the polarity, for cleaning the head, etc. Each of these goals relates to a different type of pranayama. Idealy, it is done after asana practice, and before meditation. Asana, pranayama, meditation are part of the big area of yoga.
Breathing is generaly a bridge between the body and the mind. From the early history, the word “prana” has existed which is basically a part of the word Pranayama for breathing. It means energy or force of life. Not only the pranayama. But, with conscious breath also, this bridge may become conscious.
The become conscious of ones breath can be practiced through pranayama, Rebirthing Breathwork, Holotropic and other types of breath.
The scientific research describes prana as the complex multidimensional energy, combination of electrical, magnetic, electromagnetic, photonic, ocular, thermal and mental energies. It is the basis of manifested creation.
Pranayama breathing has been shown to positively affect immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders.
Conscious breathing has all these properties. not only pranayama.
- the universal principle of energy or force
- all energy or force is derived from the principle
- it is a particular form of manifestation of that principle
- it is in all forms of matter, and yet it is not matter
- it is stored in the brain and nerve centers, to be used when necessary
- it is in the air, but it is not the air
- it is taken up by the system along with the oxygen, and yet is not the oxygen
- prana is appropriated by the nervous system
- carried to all parts of the nervous system, adding strength and vitality.
The many powers attributed to occultists is largely due to their knowledge of this fact and their intelligent use of this stored-up energy. The yogis know that by certain forms of breathing they establish certain relations with the supply of prana. The oxygen in the air is taken by the blood and is made use of by the circulatory system.
The food must absorb oxygen from the blood and become oxygenated before it can be digested and assimilated. It is readily seen how digestion and assimilation is impaired with incorrect breathing. When assimilation is not normal, the system receives less and less nourishment, the appetite fails, bodily vigor decreases and energy diminishes, and the man withers and declines.
Both prana and consciousness must be present in life to exist. The prana and consciousness are two aspects of existence which determine the nature of everything. The consciousness is a dormant experience, prana is the active principle of manifest energy. This energy accumulates in the brain and is utilized for creative and spiritual development. The stored prana radiate strength, health vitality. Prana is the vital force that sustains not only the body but also creation at every level.