Best practices to ensure the breath of life

Breath of life
Last Updated 22 February 2013, 12:53 IST

Asthma and breathing  problems are very common respiratory disorders which involves a rigorous narrowing of the bronchial tubes making it very difficult to breathe, specifically when you breathe out.

Many of us do not breathe properly and the reasons include genetics, bad posture, diet lacking in key nutrients like vitamin C and zinc, and hypersensitivity to external triggers ranging from allergens to high stress levels.

Breathing is something that happens automatically, spontaneously, and very naturally. We breathe even when we are not even aware of it. So it seems foolish to think that one can be told how to breathe. Yet, one's breathing becomes modified and restricted in various ways, not just momentarily but habitually. We develop unhealthy habits without being aware of it.

Fast breathing

Fast breathing does not exercise the lungs enough, so they lose some of their functions causing a further reduction in vitality. Quick and faster breathing results in oxygen starvation which leads to reduced vitality, premature ageing, poor immune system and a myriad of other factors.

There are several reasons why our breathing may become fast. We are in a hurry most of the time. Our movements and breathing follow this pattern and gradually we develop habits of forgetting to breathe and the result is our breath intake become shorter and shorter. The increasing stress of modern living makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply. And we get too emotional too easily.

We get easily excited or angry and suffer from anxiety. These negative emotional states affect the rate of breathing, causing it to be fast and quicker. By short and quick breathing we are using only 30 to 40 per cent of our lung capacity. Breathing out should always be longer than breathing in.

Breathing through the mouth is wrong and can adversely affect the development of the thyroid gland, and can retard the mental development in children. It also lowers their immune system, making them susceptible to catching colds, flu and other allergies. Pathogens can also enter the lungs through mouth breathing.

Proper breathing

The first rule for correct breathing is that we should breathe through the nose. The nose has various defence mechanisms to prevent impurities and excessively cold air entering the body. At the entrance to the nose, a screen of hairs traps dust, tiny insects and other particles that may injure the lungs if you breathe through the mouth. It is easy to break the habit of breathing through the mouth. Just keep your mouth closed and you will automatically breathe through your nose.

Slow and deep breathing is important for many reasons. It is the only means of supplying our bodies and its various organs with oxygen which is vital for our health. Slow and deep breathing is one of the ways to get rid of waste products and toxins from our body and improves oxygen levels in our body. Oxygen is essential for the proper and efficient functioning of the brain, nerves, glands and other internal organs.

Proper breathing, from a yogic point of view, is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to control ‘prana’ or the vital life energy.

Various asanas and pranayama practice helps to take slower, longer, and deeper breath. Pranayama is the science of breath control. It is quite an art of breathing.

(Published 22 February 2013, 12:53 IST)

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