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Breath - The Ultimate Healer


Wholistic Health Alliance presents
Breath - The Ultimate Healer

The beautiful breath!  The very first and most precious gift that we receive when we arrive in this world.  The most dependable and trusted companion we have for the rest of our lives.  The very last thing that we let go of.  

When was the last thing you gave serious attention or any attention to your breath? Have you ever tried to control its flow? Have you ever observed it’s  rhythm as it flows in  and out of your body ever so constantly? What does it bring with it and what does it take away? How does it affect your physical and mental body?

So many questions---I hope that you are now looking for answers.  I will try my best.  Breath brings the flow of oxygen or prana in our bodies. Prana is a Sanskrit word which means force of life.  When someone dies in India, they say their prana has left them.  It is the life force that keeps us alive.  It is the force that we can extend in our bodies with Pranayama or breathing techniques used in yoga.  Every cell in our body needs this prana or energy to survive.  It can be in the form of oxygen that we breathe in or in the form of food or nourishment that we eat.  This live energy is carefully balanced with apana or the waste that every cell creates.  This waste can be in the form of gases or Carbon dioxide that we breathe out or in form of liquid or solid waste that we excrete.  It is very important to keep the balance between the two systems.   If we have more apana in our bodies, we won’t be able to breathe in new prana.  This is somewhat like a cluttered room full of stuff.  We cannot decorate this room with new and beautiful things unless we get rid of old and useless stuff. 

Let me share a simple deep breathing technique with you that I am sure everyone can do and will bring a breath of fresh air literally and figuratively in your lives.  Few things to remember are 

1.  Sit straight in a chair or another comfortable spot.  

2.  Take a deep inhale thru your nose. Feel your chest and then your belly expand.  

3.  If you can place one hand on your belly, try a bit dramatically to let your belly expand with the hand.  

4.  Hold the breath for a moment. 

5.  Exhale gently through the nose. If you must use your mouth, purse your lips and let the air leave your body slowly  as if you are going to blow some candles.  

6. Rest for a moment. 

As you can see, A deep breath has four components:  Inhale, Hold, Exhale, Rest. 

Inhale is always done thru the nose. If you are holding for too long than you may not be able to control your exhale. The rest at the end of exhale is the moment when literally nothing happens or Shunya in Sanskrit.  This allows the next inhale to have more vigor. 

Both inhale and exhale should be slow, long and steady.  Imagine the flow of a gentle river as you let that breath enter and then leave your body.  You can make that exhale either as long as the inhale or even longer.  Remember, you are trying to get rid of the apana or the useless stuff so you can create more room for the prana or good energy in your body. 

Try taking 10 deep breaths first thing in the morning.  You can do it sitting straight in your bed or at the edge of bed.  This will start your day with that extra oxygen which you need to get through the day. It will also promote digestion and help you clear your bowels.  Drink a glass of slightly warm water after the breathing session to help further with your bowels. 

Before you hit the pillow at night, sit up straight in the bed and take 10 deep breaths.  Make it as slow and gentle as you can.  Bring full attention to the breath.  It might help to chant a mantra you like with each inhale and exhale to clear the whole day of mental chatter.  You can also count mentally as you breathe:  4-2-8-2 with each inhale-hold-exhale-rest respectively.  If the inhale is longer than the count of 4, make the exhale longer accordingly. This will help you sleep better and deeper and will also help you stay asleep by calming the mind.  

Deep Breathing can be done anytime and anywhere.  The only exception is right after meals.  Try and wait at least 1-2 hours before doing any practice of deep breathing.  There are other types of breathing or pranayama like balancing breath (nadi-shodi or anuloma-viloma), bellows breath (bhastrika), victory breath (ujjayi), skull-shining breath (kapalbhati) etc. for which one needs proper instructions and guidance with a trained yoga instructor. 

The benefits of deep breathing are many.   It will help you calm down and decrease anxiety.  This happens by stimulating the calming part of the nervous system or PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) while it slows down the anxious part or sympathetic nervous system (related to “fight or flight” response).   When the breathing is slower, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard and therefore the HR and blood pressure can go down.  By engaging the abdominal muscles, deep breathing can stimulate digestion and help with bowels.  All of this relieves stress, promotes healing, induces mental calmness and increases concentration. It helps us be in the present moment and enjoy and appreciate every single breath. 

Try to incorporate deep breathing in your daily routines and see how you feel. The only tools you need to get started is your will and awareness.  Heal yourself with the most basic thing we all own and perhaps take for granted. You can never do too much of deep breathing!   
Enjoy a private moment with your breath!


(Ritu Kapur is the owner of Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio. She is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Yoga Teacher. She takes pride in using yoga as a healing technique for her patients. She teaches yoga for people with physical disabilities, injuries and/or chronic pain. Please visit her website www.SOHUM.org for details on the classes offered at her studio in Westborough, MA. Email: ritu.kapur@Sohum.org. )

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