“Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.”
It has been said by ancient yogis, scriptures and Buddhist monks that when we are born, we are given a certain number of breaths, which determines how long we will live. Now I don’t know if the exact number of our breaths are predetermined, but it definitely makes sense that if we breathe less, more efficiently, that we can extend our lives.
Deep controlled breathing increases oxidation which aids the body in burning our fat cells, thus triggering our metabolism. This causes the thyroid gland to release hormones and increase our metabolic rate. This manner of breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which results in decreased heart rate, a relaxed body and a calm mind.
We can slow down and perhaps even reverse ageing with this deeper rhythmic way of breathing! Why? Because this way of breathing increases oxygenation of the skin and other vital organs or the body. This in turn assists the body in functioning in a healthier and more efficient manner.
Most of us don’t think about our breath. It’s simply something we do automatically and have been doing since birth. We tend to take this miracle for granted. When we slow down our breath, it improves our mood, boosts our immune system and gives our body a bit of a rest. When we are stressed or panicked we tend to breathe rapidly, shallowly, or not at all. With regulated breathing we have the power to take control over this.
Slowing our breathing can also reduce blood pressure. A number of studies have shown that breathing at a rate of 6 breathes per minute for 15 minutes a day can significantly reduce blood pressure in a couple of months time. When our respiratory rate decreases this means our heart doesn’t have to work nearly as hard doing it’s job of pumping blood throughout the body. This calms our nervous system, giving it a much needed break from working so hard.
Resting heart rate is one of the biggest indicators of lifespan. So you can see that by lowering our resting heart rate, we can expand our lifespan. Alternate nostril breathing is particular effective for this but that is a topic for an article of it’s own.
Think about this. In nature, species that breathe fewer times per minute tend to have a greater life span than species that breathe a significantly higher number of times per minute. Take a giant tortoise for example. It breathes about 4 breaths per minute and can live from 150 to 200 years old. Dogs, on the other hand, take 40-50 breaths per minute and live to be between 12-15 years. Humans are somewhere in the middle with 12-20 breaths per minute and live from 60-100 years. Nature might be trying to tell us something!
There are lots of books and tons of information online about breath work and breathing. I am by no means an expert on the subject but I’m also not one to over complicate things. It’s as simple as getting started. Below I will give you a few pointers from a beginner’s perspective. A side benefit to this practice is that when we focus on the breath, we are focusing on the present moment. Coming back to the present is something that can benefit us all because now is the only time we are really alive!