“With just breath, soul and courage, the man achieved a life to be admired.” Upanishads
Breathing is the essence of life. Athletes and yogis know how to work with their breath, but many adults have forgotten the powerful, natural breathing we all understood at birth. A few insights:
Breath is energy. Inhalation is the transport of oxygen to the cells where it reacts with glucose to give water, carbon dioxide and an energy molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Breath optimizes performance. During an endurance event, the body requires an efficient ATP (energy) supply derived from oxygen intake. The inhaled oxygen enhances performance while exhaling carbon dioxide and nitric oxide improve flexibility and recovery times.
Breath is healing. Many illnesses are associated with inefficient breathing which has a negative effect on many physiological functions. Acid reflux, anxiety, depression, weight gain and cardiovascular and kidney disease are a few conditions that may improve with more efficient breathing.
Breath is divine. The yoga literature on breath unites these scientific truths from the microcosmic cell to the macrocosmic universe. When we breath, we share the same atoms that were created in the stars and now circulate in our own atmosphere. Metaphysically, this sharing of energy connects each of us to a greater cosmic commodity.
Breathing consciously generates vital ATP energy. Through inhalation you experience your full potential. Exhalation is the act of surrending or realeasing all you are to the universe. With practise, you can control your physiology through your breath, calming mental chatter, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, releasing lactic acid from your tissues and increasing your metabolism.
Take time for a performance breath:
1. Lie on your back or sit in a comfortable position with your natural spinal curves maintained or supported, with hands palms up on the floor beside you or on your lap.
2. Inhale slowly through your nose for a full four to five seconds. Stay aware of the feel of your breath as it passes through your nostrils, slowly expands your rib cage filling your lungs and finally pushes into your abdomen so you can see and feel your belly rise with air. Then hold this full inhale for a few seconds.
3. Gently release your breath through the nose, slowly bringing awareness and focus then following it with your mind in the reverse order- from belly depressing to the lungs relaxing. Notice the quality and quantity of air as you exhale. Hold the exhale for a few seconds at the very end until your body again calls for air. The pause at the top of the inhale and the bottom of the exhale creates a quieting of the mind into a present meditative moment.
4. With your eyes closed, gently imagine each cell relaxing as it is massaged by the breath as it sweeps through you.
5. Repeat this three times for energy, five times for relaxation and eight times for great love-making.