Breathing to Live, Living to Breath…!!!
Breathing is the most obvious involuntary action that our body performs as long as we’re alive and kicking. So, the question arises, what is it about breathing that is so important and how does it affect us. Again I am going to pick up this topic and talk about it from the perspective of how we experienced breathing in our lives and why did it become such an important aspect for us rather than being just another bodily function. Now if you go for the literal definition of the word as explained in Wikipedia:
Breathing is the process that moves air in and out of the lungs, or oxygen through other respiratory organs such as gills. For organisms with lungs, breathing is also called ventilation, which includes both inhalation and exhalation.
Not only this, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize how our body not only adapts our breathing depending on the kind of situation we’re in, but also regulates the amount of oxygen that gets delivered to the circulatory system. Shallow breathing, deep breathing, quick breathing, all depend on our physical or mental state. If we’re doing physical labor, our breathing increases to compensate for the increased level of carbon dioxide in the blood, whereas if we’re relaxed it reduces, so that our body doesn’t inhale more oxygen than is needed, which is also dangerous for our body. Another interesting attribute about breathing is that one cannot voluntarily stop breathing indefinitely. So one cannot utilize this technique to commit suicide, cause if you tried it for a long enough amount of time, you would lose consciousness, and the body would resume breathing on its own…ah hah…!!!
Now there is a whole lot of information about how and why all of this happens, but what we want to talk about is how we found the importance of breathing in our lives and how it has affected our health as well as spirituality.
From health point of view, for a healthy body you need healthy body parts/organs, in this case Lungs. Just like most of the people I know and most of the friends I’ve had during my late teens though my twenties right up to early thirties, I used to be a chain smoker. I don’t need to explain the ill effects of smoking tobacco to anyone, but one thing is without a doubt a fact – either you are addicted to smoking or you’re not. There is no middle ground. Anyone who says they are in control of the situation, are only lying to themselves. But of course you realize this only after you’ve given up smoking and before that, keep telling yourself that you can kick the habit anytime you want to.
So, how did I manage to get rid of this atrocious habit? As the saying goes – the first step towards getting out of a bad habit is to accept that one has that bad habit. In this case, addiction to smoking. Another important question would be why? Well as I mentioned in the introduction pop-up/page, the moment one is blessed with a child with one’s partner, life as you know it changes. The wish to live a longer, healthier life overcomes the urge to smoke the stick of death and that is exactly what happened. After our daughter was born, a switch got flipped inside my head. In very simple words I didn’t want our daughter to grow up without a father and as simple as that I was ready to quit smoking. Now, every smoker knows what it does to his/her body, we just need the right reason/motivation to let it go and now I did. Was it tough? Of course it was. No, let me correct myself, it still is. But am I holding strong? The answer to that is even simpler, I don’t have to. The resolve to not smoke is so strong that I don’t even have to make an effort to stop myself. See for yourself, if this is not reason enough, I don’t know what is.
Well now that one has discovered the reason to stop smoking, the next questions are – what about the damage caused by nearly 20 years of smoking, how long does it take to recover after one stops and does one even recover from such a catastrophic disaster? The good news is, yes one does. According to a report released by whyquit.com aptly called Stop Smoking Recovery Timetable, and I am quoting,
“Within 10 years your risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer is between 30% and 50% of that for a continuing smoker.”
That’s encouraging enough, even though one never fully recovers, I am just happy that my odds are better.
From spiritual point of view, as breathing is directly connected to living, one comes across the Sanskrit term ‘Prana’ which literally means Life Force or vital principle. I do believe it’s important to keep your ‘Prana’ happy to keep your spirits up. A quick Google search for the keywords breathing and spirituality will give you a ton of information regarding this aspect of life. What I want to talk about is what the significance of ‘Prana’ is. As ‘Prana’ is the vital life force for all beings, to achieve a state of spiritual awakening, it is of great importance to nurture it with utmost care and one of the most effective ways of uplifting your ‘Prana’ is ‘Pranayama’.
Wikipedia has by far the best explanation of the word ‘Pranayama‘.
It is basically a Sanskrit word made up to two smaller words ‘Prana’ meaning life force/breath and ‘ayama’ meaning to extend or draw. Performing ‘Pranayama’ involves various breathing techniques to achieve Physical and Spiritual excellence as we will discuss in the upcoming articles. It is a part of yogic discipline with origins in ancient India.