Breath is the most basic survival mechanism. You can live without food for 40 days, without water for 4 days, without breath not even for 4 minutes.
Breathing keeps us alive and PRANA (life energy) from fresh, energetic air is feeding our body and soul. Most people use only 1/10 of their lung capacity, doing 16 – 18 breaths per minute. It is said, that the lifespan of any being is measured in its total number of breath strokes – just think of elephants or turtles…
Up to 70 % of the body toxins are released with exhaling (APANA). We try to use the full lung capacity and do only 5 – 6 breaths per minute. Long deep breathing directly affects the ‘higher’ glands like pituitary and pineal.
If you are able to breathe only 4 times per minute, you obtain control over your thoughts and feelings – this is done while meditation. Therefore the control (YAMA) of breath plays a very important role in mastering our body and also our existence.
If you feel confident, secure and connected to your world, the breath automatically goes down (to the belly and also in its rhythm). If you are under stress, have fear or want to protect yourselves, the breath goes up to the chest, becomes shallow and fast. Therefore the rhythm or pattern of breathing is an indication of your ‘live quality’. Interesting enough this mechanism does not only work in one way, it also has effect in the other direction. This means, if you start consciously breathing deeper, you are starting to feel more secure, calmer and ‘connected’ or rooted. This is the reason, why the main component of any relaxation / meditation is the control of breath (Pranayama). In order to increase this relaxation effect with the conscious slow down of breath, we first speed up our body functions with the application of Asanas (body postures) and dynamic movements.
In general the breath cycles have the following effects on the body / mind:
slow inhale -> strengthens glandular system
holding of breath after inhale -> cleansing of blood, exchange of toxins in the lungs
slow exhale -> strengthening of the nerves
holding of breath after exhale -> release of energy on a subconscious level, against fears