Science of Breath – 1

Life is actually a series of breaths, that starts with birth and ends with death. To live is to breathe. The correct form of breathing not only leads to good physical health but it also increases one’s mental power, happiness, self control, clarity in thinking and even one’s spiritual growth. Hence it is very important to understand how breath works.

A person who is able to control his breath, will be able to control his body and mind. The yogis of ancient times were able through breathing practices, to store prana in their body and send it to any organ or part, thus strengthening and invigorating that part.

Oxygen, is needed by every cell in our body in order to live. The air that we breathe contains oxygen.  In the lungs, the oxygen moves into the bloodstream and this purified and oxygenated blood is carried to the heart and to different parts of the body through arteries and capillaries. At each cell in the body, the oxygen cells are exchanged for waste gas called carbon dioxide. The bloodstream then carries this waste gas back to the lungs where the waste gas is removed from the blood and then exhaled from the body.

It follows that unless fresh air in sufficient quantities reaches the lungs, the impure stream of venous blood cannot be purified. Thus, not only is the body robbed of its nourishment but the waste products which should have been destroyed are returned to the circulatory system thus poisoning it, instead of invigorating and strengthening it.

The normal human being invariably breathes in a shallow way, in which, only a portion of lung is used and a large portion of the lung capacity is lost, as a result of which, the blood does not get completely purified. Once we understand that ‘prana’ (life force energy) comes from the air we breathe, it makes sense to learn the correct way of breathing, so that we live a life full of vitality.

What is Prana?

‘Prana’ is absolute energy which exists everywhere. It is considered to be the essence of all forms of life – from the highest to the lowest. Fresh air is the greatest source of prana. The easiest way of getting prana is by inhaling it along with air. This is where breath and the way we breathe plays an important role in  nourishing both mind and body. With the correct form of breathing, we can control and regulate breathing. We will be able to extract a greater supply of prana, which is stored in the brain and nervous system, to be used when necessary.

What is the correct form of breathing?

The correct form of breathing according to Yogi Ramacharaka, is also called the complete breath. First of all, always breathe through the nose, and not through the mouth. The mouth is not equipped to cleanse the air and change the temperature of the air you are breathing in. The nostrils filter the air we breathe and also warm it, so that it can do no damage to the delicate respiratory organs.

The best method of breathing according to Yogi Ramacharaka is one where the entire respiratory apparatus, – every part of the lung, every cell, every respiratory muscle is brought into play. In the Yogi complete breathing method, “the respiratory muscles are fully called into play…… The muscles controlling the ribs are used in such a way that, it increases the space in which the lungs can expand.”

The maximum benefit is derived with minimum energy expended. In such a breathing, the chest cavity is expanded to its normal limits in all directions and every part works and performs the functions it is supposed to.