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Importance of Healthy Breathing

We know how to breathe. It is something that occurs to us automatically, spontaneously, naturally. We are breathing even when we are not aware of it. So it seems foolish to think that one can be told how to breathe. Yet, one's breathing becomes modified and restricted in various ways, not just momentarily, but habitually. We develop unhealthy habits without being aware of it. We tend to assume positions (slouched positions) that diminishes lung capacities and take shortened breaths. We also live in social conditions that is not good for the health of our respiratory system.

As discussed above, scientists have known for a long time that there exists a strong connection between respiration and mental states. Improper breathing produces diminished mental ability. The corollary is true also. It is known that mental tensions produce restricted breathing.

A normally sedentary person, when confronted with a perplexing problem, tends to lean forward, draw his arms together, and bend his head down. All these body postures results in reduced lung capacity. The more intense the concentration, the more tense the muscles become. The muscles in the arms, neck and chest contract. The muscles that move the thorax and control inhalation and muscular tenseness clamp down and restrict the exhalation. The breaths become shorter and shorter. After an extended period of intense focusing, the whole system seems to be frozen in a certain posture.

We become fatigued from the decreased circulation of the blood and from the decreased availability of oxygen for the blood because we have almost stopped breathing. As our duties, responsibilities and their attendant problems become more demanding, we develop habits of forgetting to breathe.

Try an experiment suggested by Swami Vishnudevananda. Focus your attention upon the ticks of a clock placed at a distance of about twelve feet. If you get distracted, try concentrating harder until you experience the ticking with undivided attention. If you fail at first, you should try again and again until you succeed in keeping the ticking clearly in mind for at least a few seconds. What happened? The majority of persons who took part in this experiment reported that they have completely suspended the breath. The others, who had less concentration, reported that they experienced very slow breathing. This experiment shows clearly that where there is concentration of the mind, the breathing becomes very slow or even get suspended temporarily.
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