VITALIZING BODY SYSTEMS
Developing the habit of deep breathing has a positive effect in strengthening the immune systems in the body. This includes the digestive, pulmonary, cardiac, elimination, muscular-skeleton, lymphatic, nervous, and skin systems.
This makes perfect sense because deeper breathing promotes more efficient oxygenation. More oxygen travels to the cells and more carbon dioxide waste exits from the cells. This improved exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is particularly salutary for the key organs of heart and lungs. Strong lungs indirectly help heart functioning since more efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide results in less pumping effort for the heart.
The most obvious benefactor to the physical sphere is the lungs. Developing the habit of deep breathing makes us less prone to all respiratory ailments including the common cold. It is a natural tool in treating those with asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. In addition to whatever medication and other aids are available for these unpleasant and often scary diseases, deep breathing can effortlessly bring more air into the lungs. If practiced daily, lung strength and capacity can increase markedly.
Deep breathing was part of my successful treatment of chronic rhinitis. For many years, I had little success from traditional and alternative health providers to stop incessant sneezing and runny nose. Finally, it was almost completely cured within a short time with the help of an elderly acupuncturist. He combined acupuncture, herbs, cleansing diet, and deep breathing. It was his considered opinion that the deep breathing was the most important ingredient! He related to me that deep breathing was the only physical exercise regime that he did, doing it a total of one hour in a day. His youthfulness, shining countenance, and strong body were remarkable for a man his age!
CONTROL OF MIND
By control of mind, I include thoughts and emotions. Lack of dominion over the mind causes more unhappiness in the world than we realize. Out of control emotions are a source of much stress. Excessive anger, anxiety, and fear are examples.
It is difficult to think clearly and act wisely in the wake of intense emotions.
Let’s consider anger. Excessive anger can be very harmful to body and mind. Most angerholics are disturbed by their lack of control and the harm often done to their personal relationships. Anger addicted Type A personalities are increased candidates for heart attacks.
One yoga master has written “if you can control your breath when you are angry, the anger will die. If you can go on breathing rhythmically, anger can not overpower you.” 5
If you wish to interrupt the urge to lash out in anger, count mentally the number of breaths on your inhalation and on your exhalation. Suppose the inhalation was three counts and the exhalation two counts. For the next seven breaths, keep the inhalation at the three counts but increase the exhalation to four counts. In other words double the number of exhales to curb unwanted anger.6
Anxiety is the leading cause of wrong breathing. Anxiety has many sources. The tributaries that can lead to anxiety include, but are not limited to guilt, fear, worry, shame, and insecurity. When we become unduly anxious, our muscles tend to tighten, our breath becomes rapid and shallow, or we simply hold our breath.
Chronic and acute anxiety is rife in our fast paced society. Its effects can be quite debilitating. To treat this is undoubtedly a complex matter and there are many paths that one can take. We have traditional psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, medication, herbs, massage, meditation, biofeedback, and other healing arts. But deep breathing, while certainly not a panacea, can be a powerful tool to allay anxiety. The fact is that no one can be anxious and relaxed at the same time.
Breathing can be an effective way of handling anxiety and panic attacks. Pounding of the heart, shortness of breath, sweating, and intense fear are symptoms that can be allayed by deep breathing. Grasping for air and shortness of breath are frequent symptoms of these attacks. Fear is an intense form of anxiety. Examples are fear of flying, disease, falling, and the terror of dying experienced in panic attacks. But frenzied attempts to inhale air are not the answer. They hinder rather than aid more air into the lungs. Needed are slow mouth exhalations with relaxed abdominal muscles. This empties the lungs and paves the way for air to effortlessly flow in on inhalation.
It is not just excessive, out of control, and turbulent emotions that cause us anguish, stress, and misery. Repetitive thoughts plague us as well. It has been said that the average person has about 72, 000 thoughts a day, most of which are repetitive. 7 Deep breathing can reduce the draining energy effects of repetitive thoughts.
For those who have learned alternative nostril breathing (nadi shodhanam) from yoga, I recommend that this technique be particularly used to control turbulent emotions and excessive repetitive thoughts. It is a quick and effective way to gain equilibrium the two sides of the autonomic nervous and balance excitation and anxiety with calmness and reason.