Which animal lives longer … an elephant or a dog?
This may seem like a silly question but scientists have been observing animals and their behavior in order to draw parallels to humans for hundreds of years.
An elephant can live as long as 70 years old. The average life span of a dog is 12.8 years. The answer is found in the way the animals breathe. An elephant breathes long and slow breaths while a dog is always panting and breathing very shallow.
According to yogic scriptures (Jnana Sankalini Tantra by Paramahamsa Prajnanananda), the average healthy, active, person breathes an average of 21,600 times a day. We can lower the number of breaths to 2,000 a day by learning some breath control techniques. By slowing down our breathing, we calm the nervous system and relax the mind. This will reduce our stress levels and give us longevity and health immediately. It seems so easy and simple, yet few people learn it.
Breathing by any other name …
Some call it pranayama, yogic breathing, counting to ten, no matter what you call it, slowing down the breath changes the physiology of the body. To begin, notice how you are breathing. Are you breathing from your chest or abdomen? Is it a quick shallow breath or a deep long breath?
There are many exercises you can do on your own and wherever you are. One of my favorites is to place your hands on your tummy and forcefully push out all of the breath you possibly can. (Placing your hand on the abdomen helps you know whether you are doing the exercise correctly). Hold this exhalation for three seconds. Now breathe into your abdomen and feel your hands being pushed out. Hold this intervention for three seconds. Get in touch with this deep breath. Once you're comfortable breathing this way, you do not have to place your hand on the abdomen.
Most of the lung's capacity to store air is in this deep part of the chest cavity, yet most of us do not breathe deeply enough to benefit. By forcefully pushing out all of the stale air that is in this cavity, you will receive a lot more oxygen. Be careful not to over exert because the increased oxygen can make you light-headed. If you feel any dizziness stop immediately.
Once you get the hang of that exercise, you can try pulling the breath into your chest and upper lung area. Once you have fully inhaled, hold for three seconds. Continue to practice inhaling and exhaling from this area with long, slow breaths, holding each inhalation and exhalation.
When you have a good feel for doing both of these exercises, put them together in a four part breath. Start by breathing into the deep bottom of the lung and slowly fill up the whole lung with oxygen into the upper part, as well. Hold for five seconds. Now gently exhale from the bottom first (feeling your hands being drawn into the abdomen), then exhaling the upper portion of the lungs.
Do this three times for right now and notice how you feel. Once again, the extra oxygen in the blood supply may make you a little dizzy at first, but as the body gets used to the oxygen, this feeling will disappear.
As you go through your day (and especially if you are feeling stressed), practice this slow, long breath and see how your mood and mental clarity is affected.
An Ayurvedic Massage Treatment is a full-body massage that uses oils with infused herbs to remove toxins and provide deep relaxation. Along with your new breathing techniques, this can be a very useful therapy to reduce stress.