The Breath of Life

People can live for many days – even weeks – without food; only a few days without water; and but only minutes without breathing. But inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide are just the beginning. How fast or slow, how deep or shallow, and how we direct the breath can all improve or diminish the health and well-being of the body and mind. It is said in the ancient yoga texts that the life span of a human being is not measured in years, but in the number of breaths each of us is destined to breathe. Slowing the breath can therefore increase vitality and aid in longevity.

co2 emissions - The Breath of Life


Most people do not use the full capacity of their lungs when inhaling; this limits the amount of oxygen (and thus Prana or Chi, which are almost synonymous) taken in. And since every cell in the body requires oxygen to function, every function and system of the body, including the mind, will work better by breathing to one’s full lung capacity. Regularly practicing exercises which involve regulated and deep breathing is just as important for health as exercises which stretch and strengthen the muscles. Additionally, the intake of the subtle elements via the breath directly promote mental acuity and calmness and such results can be experienced immediately, and are long lasting and cumulative. It is important to inhale through the nose; in some forms of breathing exhaling through the mouth is directed but generally exhaling should also be via the nose. It is important to remember that full exhalation is just as important as inhalation.

Air quality is also very important – there is much more Chi or Prana in fresh clean air than in polluted or stale air.   Breathing deeply close to rivers, streams, waterfalls , the ocean, around trees and plants, after a rainfall or thunderstorm increase health, and if we don’t have access to these environments often, using a home air purifier can be very helpful. Additionally, we should be careful to stay away from air pollution which can also include all kinds of industrial or household chemicals, perfumes, cigarette smoke and the like.

The Sit up Bench of Life : Insights Learned from Jagad Guru Chris Butler

I live near a waterfront. It’s not a beach. It’s either water to the wall, or a mudflat, depending on the season of the moon. There is a small section of shore with some sand that segues into muddy slime. All very natural of course so calling it slime may be somewhat libellous. In any case, this few metres of land go by the glorified name of Pandanus Beach, Pandanus being accurate, as these trees are indigenous, but Beach? Hmmm…. Nonetheless, the locals come out when the moon is right, because when the moon is in the 7th house, or wherever it needs to be to pull the sea as close the shore as possible, the little bay area is a pleasant bath, if you make sure not to put your feet down once you pass from sand to slime. Not so pleasant as to invite more than a half dozen oldies who have bathed here since their glory days, and the odd ring in who might have been in the area perhaps 20 years, though not a local yet. It is a nice place for meditation.

pandanus beach

But while the beach is not a busy spot, the walkway along the waterfront often bustles.   Exercise stations dot the path at intervals, ignored invitations to grow some muscle. I have tried them out but the bars are too big for my hands, a personal disappointment and annoyance, a design on which I’d like to blame my lack of upper body strength and bicep tone. Not fair perhaps, but nonetheless, I once returned from 6 months in from America, as slim and fit as I had even been, or will be again, in this same body, with arms well-toned by pull up bars of superior design. I contemplated writing the Council with advice on future plans, but laziness prevailed and more fat poled pull up bars have manifested along walkways round the city, and remain, as far as I can see, of decorative value. I blame myself for lack of civic conscience.

While the sit-up stations and chin-up bars are unattended, the monkey bars in the children’s play areas get more use. The swings swing, the see saws soar, child day carers tend their little flocks and yes, there even are some bona fide Mums. On sunny afternoons the old men with their model boats cluster on the edging of the sea fed wading pool, while women of a certain age wade back and forth, and youngsters flutter and splash, and slide down the water slide.

But that all happens a little later in the day. The occasion that brought me to this page to write was earlier, post dawn but pre mid-morning tea. There’s no great excitement to describe, just a humble story recalled.

I can be an anti-social bird at times, so when I walk I often plug my ears with wax, or the modern equivalent, and draw my hat down over my eyes, avoiding the good morning cries of my fellow creatures as we intersect, and fingering my meditation beads, the “mala” of the yogi, or those aspiring to be such. The earplugs not only keep distractions further at bay, but make it easy to hear the mantras that I softly say as I move the beads through my fingers. Yesterday I was wandering along, semi deep in meditation, and wandered onto an exercise station, to sit for a while and contemplate more deeply, when I was struck by the softness of the ground. The rubber substrate surrounding the sit-up bench was delicious under my feet. If a sitter-upper should become a faller-offer they wouldn’t suffer a thing, but would, rather, lie back and laugh. Instead of sitting I started circumambulation around the bench as if it were a thing of awe and wonder.

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