We not only need today the Art of Living, but also the Art of Healing, both the Mind and the Body. The stress and suffering triggered by the wrong thinking, wrong ways of working, globalization and senseless competition, have taken their toll upon our bodies. Because they both go together: when the mind is sick, unhappy, small, full of hate, the body suffers and cancers, heart attacks, debilitating sicknesses, flourish on his planet earth, like a sign of a diseased earth body
So we learn the Art of Breathing, a very ancient Indian science perfected over the ages.
Breathing is important for two reasons. It is the only means to supply our bodies and its various organs with oxygen which is vital for our survival. The second function of breathing is that it is the main means of getting rid of waste products and toxins from the body. Oxygen is the most vital nutrient for our bodies. It is essential for the integrity of the brain, nerves, glands and internal organs. We can do without food for weeks and without water for days, but without oxygen, we will die within a few minutes. If the brain does not get a proper supply of this essential nutrient, it will result in the degradation of all vital organs in the body.
The brain requires more oxygen than any other organ. If it doesn’t get enough, the result is mental sluggishness, negative thoughts and depression and, eventually, vision and hearing decline. Old people and those whose arteries are clogged often become senile and vague because oxygen to the brain is reduced.
For a long time, lack of oxygen has been considered a major cause of cancer. Even as far back as 1947, work done in Germany showed that when oxygen was withdrawn, normal body cells could turn into cancer cells. Similar research has been done with heart disease. It showed that lack of oxygen is a major cause of heart disease, stroke and cancer. The research done at Baylor University in the USA has shown that you can reverse arterial disease in monkeys by infusing oxygen into the diseased arteries.
Thus, oxygen is very critical to our wellbeing, and any effort to increase the supply of oxygen to our body and especially to the brain will pay rich dividends. Indian sages realized the vital importance of an adequate oxygen supply thousands of years ago. They developed and perfected various breathing techniques. These breathing exercises are particularly important for people who have sedentary jobs and spend most of the day in offices. Their brains are oxygen starved and their bodies are just ‘getting by’. They feel tired, nervous and irritable and are not very productive. On top of that, they sleep badly at night, so they get a bad start to the next day continuing the cycle. This situation also lowers their immune system, making them susceptible to catching colds, flu and other ‘bugs’.
Our breathing is too shallow and too quick. We are not taking in sufficient oxygen and we are not eliminating sufficient carbon dioxide. As a result, our bodies are oxygen starved, and a toxic build-up occurs. Every cell in the body requires oxygen and our level of vitality is just a product of the health of all the cells. Shallow breathing does not exercise the lungs enough, so they lose some of their function, causing a further reduction in vitality. Animals which breathe slowly live the longest; the elephant is a good example. We need to breathe more slowly and deeply. Quick shallow breathing results in oxygen starvation which leads to reduced vitality, premature ageing, poor immune system and a myriad of other factors.
Our Breath Fast and Shallow because we are in a hurry most of the time. Our movements and breathing follow this pattern. The increasing stress of modern living makes us breathe more quickly and less deeply. We also get too emotional too easily. We get excited easily, angry easily, and most of the rest of the time we suffer from anxiety due to worry. These negative emotional states affect the rate of breathing, causing it to be fast and shallow.
Modern technology and automation reduces our need for physical activity. There is less need to breathe deeply, so we develop the shallow breathing habit. We are working indoors more and more. This increases our exposure to pollution. As a result, the body instinctively inhales less air to protect itself from pollution. The body just takes in enough air to tick over.
As we go through life, these bad breathing habits we picked up become part of our life. Unless we do something to reverse these habits, we can suffer permanent problems. The good news is that these are reversible. The bad news is that before we can change these habits, we should recognize and accept that our behaviour needs to be changed. This means that we see for ourselves the benefits of good breathing techniques.
Modem science agrees with the ancient yogis on the subject of shallow breathing. An editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggested that fast, shallow breathing can cause fatigue, sleep disorders, anxiety, stomach upsets, heart bum, gas, muscle cramps, dizziness, visual problems, chest pain and heart palpitations. Scientists have also found that a lot of people who believe they have heart disease are really suffering from improper breathing.
This is what HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has revitalized and modernized the ancient science of pranayama, says: “A few times of the healing breath fully relaxes you. Your life becomes more total. All the different facets of your personality come together to make you a whole person. Do the healing breath and meditate. These practices completely transform you and kindle the love deep inside.’ These words of Sri Sri, have inspired millions all over the world to take the plunge into the sea of energy connected with the breath.
The art of Healing begins with the Art of Breathing