Breath is the essence of our life. It is also a big mystery. Inhalation is how our life starts and exhalation – how it finishes. It is a basic mechanism that feeds our cells with oxygen and gives it life. Breath is with us all the time and is our basic need. We all keep breathing but who does actually breathe consciously? Breath is so natural and spontaneous that we don’t pay any attention to it, or we even forget that we are breathing. But our life is dependant on breath much more than on anything else. So how is it that we don’t pay attention to it?
Breathing happens on its own without conscious effort. The nervous center of breathing sits in the medulla oblongata (lower part of the brainstem). From there it is directed along with other vital processes. The life of each cell in our body directly depends on the amount of oxygen intake. If there is not enough of it the lifespan of each cell shortens fast, so we could say that when we breathe properly we live properly. Although nature created the breathing system for us in such a way that we don’t have to worry about it, we can improve and deepen our breathing through different exercises, and thus improve our life energy as well.
People discovered the power of breathing techniques a long time ago and realized their potential. These are observed not only as tools to calm down the mind, emotions, and body, but also as a doorway to getting ourselves better, or even to realize the ultimate goal of yoga – the union with our highest part, God. Through regular practice of concentration on our breath and performing breathing exercises, we can cure not only our mind, emotions, and body, but also reveal our inner reality.
So how to start? When we start it’s good to find a quiet, calm place somewhere in our home. We can burn an incense or light a candle. Regarding our body, the position is important. The spine must be straight and upward and the body relaxed. If the body relaxes, it becomes more receptive. It’s not advised to concentrate or do breathing exercises while lying down because it’s very easy to fall into the sleep world. It’s much better to sit in a lotus position or with crossed legs or simply sit on a chair. There are plenty of breathing exercises but we’ll show you two of them.
From the Meditation book by Sri Chinmoy
EXERCISE #1 – BECOMING AWARE OF THE BREATH
When you sit down to meditate, try to breathe in as slowly and as quietly as possible, so that if somebody placed a tiny thread in front of your nose it would not move at all. And when you breathe out, try to breathe out even more slowly than you breathed in. If possible, leave a short pause between the end of your exhalation and the beginning of your inhalation. If you can, hold your breath for a few seconds. But if that is difficult, do not do it. Never do anything that will make you physically uncomfortable during meditation.
EXERCISE #2 – COSMIC ENERGY
Feel that you are breathing in not air but cosmic energy. Feel that tremendous cosmic energy is entering into you with each breath, and that you are going to use it to purify your body, vital, mind and heart. Feel that there is not a single place in your being that is not being occupied by the flow of cosmic energy. It is flowing like a river inside you, washing and purifying your entire being. Then, when you are breathing out, feel that you are breathing out all the rubbish inside you – all your undivine thoughts, obscure ideas and impure actions. Anything inside your system that you call undivine, anything that you do not want to claim as your own, feel that you are exhaling.
If you would like to learn how to breathe better or learn other exercises you can join our meditation classes. As part of these classes, breathing is talked about as well.