Research Paper By Aurora Heinemann
(Yoga and Wellness/Pet Loss, UNITED STATES)
When the breath wanders the mind is also unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore one should learn to control the breath. Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again. Thich Nhat Hanh
Breathe and the madness will go away,
says little Tyrone Carey, who was part of a school yoga program in one of Baltimore’s toughest areas that has made a huge difference in the lives of many inner-city kids. Another student in the program, Darrius Douglas, who turned his life around for the better, states,
Yoga saved me.
Some of the children involved in the project have anger management problems. The program taught these children meditation techniques that allow them to avoid reacting and redirect their anger. Breathing is the foundation of yoga and meditation. Does it really come down to the fundamental basics of breathing? Can something so simple be so powerful? The answer is yes.
Breathing is the only function that one can perform either unconsciously or consciously, voluntary or involuntarily. Breathing is controlled by two sets of nerves and is the bridge between these two systems; the voluntary nervous system and the involuntary or autonomic nervous system. Breathing is the connection between unconsciousness and consciousness, the bridge between mind and body that links the body and mind and the consciousness and unconsciousness. The breath is the key to health and wellness. We can learn to develop and regulate the breath to improve our health; our mind, body and spirit. Breathing is a useful tool to achieve a relaxed and clear state of mind.
Mind and body unity can be seen in the correlation between breathing and emotions. Those who are angry, upset or anxious will always breathe in a shallow, rapid, noisy and irregular manner. Quiet, slow, deep, regular breathing cannot coexist with emotional turmoil. And for most, it is just simply easier to consciously regulate the breath than to regulate their moods and ask a negative mood to stop or will it to end.
Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a watersnake crossing
the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used. Thich Nhat Hanh
When we consciously focus our attention on the inner movement of the breath, it is simply not possible to use our senses externally at the same time. While focusing on your inhalations and exhalations, you cannot also be thinking about all the chores you have to do or all the unfinished business you have waiting for you at work. The breath, or pranayama as the yogis call it, is the starting point of shutting out the external engagement of the mind and shifting the focus inward and that is why it brings peacefulness.
B.K.S Iyengar states that,
Watching the flow of the breath also teaches stability of consciousness, which leads to concentration. There is no finer method. The power of concentration allows you to invest your new energy judiciously. In the yogic scheme of things, the highest application of that concentration and power of vision is in meditation. By learning to appreciate breath, we learn to appreciate life itself. The gift of breath is the gift of life. When we receive a gift, we feel gratitude.
Dr. Andrew Weil, puts it a little more simply,
Putting your attention on your breath is another way to take it off your thoughts. The breath is such a logical and safe object of attention that it is the most commonly used focus of meditation. The more you can train yourself to shift attention away from emotionally upsetting thoughts, (or images), the better off you will be, and the breath is a very safe place to shift it-rather like putting your mind’s engine in neutral.
A very useful and simple conscious breathing technique, for calming and quieting both the nervous system and the overactive mind, is consciously exhaling longer than inhaling. When the exhale is even just a few counts longer than the inhale, the vagus nerve that runs from the neck down through the diaphragm, sends a signal to your brain to turn up your parasympathetic nervous system and turn down your sympathetic nervous system.