A human can survive for a few days with out food or water. This depends on each individual and their body fat percentage along with the atmosphere they are in. But, we can not survive with out breathing for more than a few minutes. Breathing has such great importance in our daily life.
But if you think about it, most people are not aware of their breathing and during the course of their daily life, often forget to breathe. When I started practicing Yoga, one of the first things I learned was PranaYama (Breathing Exercise). After a few weeks of practice, I started to become more aware of my breathing and realized that during most activities, like most people out there, I would either not breathe or breathe improperly.
Breathing for health
We need oxygen to survive, grow and stay healthy. The amount of oxygen our lungs get depends on the quality and amount of air we breathe. Deep Yogic inhalation with the abdomen send copious amounts of air into the lungs. Complete, slow and controlled exhalation releases all toxins from the lungs. The trick is to exhale twice as long as you inhale.
A few deep breaths in the morning fresh air could give your day a great start. Even if you are not practicing Yoga, you could develop good breathing habits that would ensure your body gets sufficient amounts of Oxygen to revitalize and rejuvenate. You just need to become aware of your breathing.
Breathing to control the mind
I was quite surprised to observe that during activities such as watching TV or listening to some one talk, we would, from time to time, hold our breath. We do not breathe properly. In fact the way one breathes and the rate of one’s breathing can say a great deal about the state of one’s mind. When we are agitated or angry, our breath comes out in short puffs. When we are fearful, our breathing is ragged and shallow. When we feel relieved, we take in deep breath and sigh slowly.
So, by being aware of our breathing and regulating it, we can enable our mind to transit from one state to another.
Breathing through out the day
If you are aware of your breath and check yourself as much as you can during the day, you will catch yourself either holding your breath or not breathing properly when you are engaged in various activities. You should then make a conscious effort to breath deeply and properly. In the beginning, it would be difficult to become aware of your breathing. But within a week or two, you will become more conscious of your breathing and will be breathing properly with out effort.
The best way to breath, as I understand it, is to breath with the abdomen. When you inhale, raise your abdomen slightly and contract the abdomen to exhale. A deep breath would be when you not only inhale into your abdomen but also into your chest. You do not need to do deep breathing too often through out the day, though.
Yogic breathing practice
This is what I do:
1) I sit calmly, close the right nostril with my right thumb and inhale deeply through the left nostril. I then close the left nostril with my right hand fourth finger (while keeping the right nostril closed with the right thumb) and hold the breath for about 10 seconds.
2) I then release the right nostril and exhale deeply, making sure all air comes out. Then I inhale deeply through the same right nostril and gently close it with the right thumb and hold my breath for 10 seconds.
3) I repeat this for 8 to 10 times alternating between the nostrils.
4) Finally I breathe deeply through both nostrils for a few times and I am done!
As you can see, it is very simple and after a little bit of practice, it would come naturally. After a whole day of Yoga reading, I was inspired to write this post and share my experience.
Disclaimer: I am not a Yoga teacher or instructor and do not claim to be an expert. I am merely sharing my experience and the results of my own education into Yoga. Following any recommendations that I may make is entirely at your own risk.