“Elementary, my dear Watson, it is universal!” is what Sherlock Holmes would have exclaimed if he was asked this question.
Yes, breathing is elementary. Breathing is universal. We all do it, all the time. Yet, few of us know beyond the simple definition of breathing. Something we take for granted. Seldom we may have thought what occurs beyond the unconscious act of inhalation and exhalation. Breathing can be as mundane as folding towels, and as interesting as being an ethical hacker!
For instance, did you know that the humans normally breath in about 6 litres of air, every minute? Or that, if our lungs were laid flat open, it would cover the area of a tennis ground? Or even, that to strengthen the breathing power of your lungs, you blow a feather across the room?
According to Medicine.Net, ‘Breathing is the process of respiration, during which air is inhaled into the lungs through the mouth or nose due to muscle contraction and then exhaled due to muscle relaxation.’
We all have answered this question correctly in school. Now, let’s learn more.
What the ancients believed:
The power and the importance of breathing were known to man since ancient times.
The Great Sphinx of Giza, the famous Egyptian statue has a glaringly missing nose. Surprisingly, it is not because of wear and tear. The nose was intentionally vandalised to reduce its spiritual powers. Ancient Egyptians believed that even statues have a life force, which enters through the nose, and the best way to disable this power, to ‘kill’, was to break off its nose, and stop its breathing.
Patanjali, the revered Indian sage, wrote in his sutras, 4000 years ago: pracchardana vidhāraṇābhyāṃ: by deep and forceful exhalation and controlled inhalation of prāṇa’ mind can be stabilized. This sutra emphasizes a direct correlation between controlled breathing and a pristine, clear mind.
And yet, the complete knowledge of the correct ways of breathing, and its benefits continue to evade us. My beautiful friend, Sheela, still pulls in her abdomen while inhaling, so as to give an appearance of having a flat stomach.
Know breathing, know life…
Breathing is a 24/7, involuntary action, which provides the necessary oxygen to the body, without which, no living cell can survive. Did you know, deep breathing, is also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, or abdominal breathing, which is believed to be the panacea of a long and healthy life. Deep breathing enables full oxygen exchange in the lungs; a self-healing act, which improves, maintains and repairs the body. Heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, digestion, hormone secretion, and even our mental and emotional states all can be controlled, regulated, and healed through proper breathing practices.
The diaphragm, that important muscle sheath, which separates the thoracic cavity and the abdominal cavity, rises and falls with each breath, massages the organs in the stomach, enabling proper absorption of nutrients, and elimination of harmful toxins.
The breath-brain connection:
Researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and the Global Brain Health Institute have found that focused breathing affects levels of noradrenaline, a hormone which improves brain health and promotes attention to detail. Put simply, it means that our attention is influenced by our breath and that we can finetune our senses by synchronising our breath.
Deep, systemic breathing has the power to stimulate the Vagus nerve, the longest and the most important cranial nerve in our body. The Vagus nerve regulates the functions of our internal organs, which translates into enhanced vim, vigour and vitality.
Otto Warburg, in 1931, won the Noble prize for medicine for determining only ‘oxygen-starved’ cells will mutate and become cancerous. He meant that breathing correctly could help prevent cancer!
Breath in-breath out-repeat:
Ancient yogis knew this, and even modern science agrees, that if you can do one favour for yourself, it must be to slow down, and focus on breathing deeply, using the abdomen.
Because, as Kris Carr, a New York-based wellness activist and cancer survivor has famously said,” I love to breathe. Oxygen is sexy!”
Contributor: Nafisa Shabbir Master
About our Writing Program Student
Nafisa is a Behavioural Psychologist, Neuro Linguistic Master Trainer, and Life Skills Coach. Apart from over 20 years of experience in Corporate Coaching, she also takes time to travel and go trekking. An avid traveller and trekker, Nafisa has trekked to the China, Myanmar and Bangladesh borders. She loves reading, coking, singing and making friends. She’s happily married and a proud grand mother of four beautiful children.