Watch the Magic Breath

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Nothing is as important as our breath and the way we breathe. It is magical and that is why Yoga stresses on Pranayama and integrates breathing with movement. Yet many of us pay scant attention to our breath.There are three types of breathing, according to Yoga Vasistha by Patanjali Maharshi, the authentic text that all Yoga practitioners swear by.

The first one is the “upper” or “shallow” or the Clavicular breathing in which we use the shoulder blades and collar bone to inhale the shallowest breath. Though maximum effort is taken, minimum air is obtained. So it hardly sends in the required oxygen to the circulatory system and thus we are in permanent oxygen debt. The result is stress, strain and the resulting fatigue. It makes us feel breathless like when we climb up a flight of steps.

The “middle” or “chest” or the Intercostal breathing, the second kind, is mostly the everyday kind of breathing we do. In this kind of breathing we expand the Intercostal muscles which in turn move the rib cage. Though better than the first kind, this too is not enough to give us ample supply of vital oxygen. However, it keeps us alive and functioning. Each time our blood oxygen levels are low, we take in an extra breath to compensate.

The “lower” or “abdominal” or the Diaphragmatic breathing, the third kind is the most desirable, cleansing breath of all. Deep abdominal breathing is the most ideal because it brings air into the lower parts of the lungs. It helps us breathe deeply and slowly, pushing down the diaphragm. A breeze is not able to blow away the accumulated dust in the nooks and corners of a room. However a strong gush of wind can accomplish this. Similarly, through abdominal breathing all the dust, bacteria and carbon dioxide that remains in the lower part of the lungs are pushed out – hence the cleansing effect. When you breathe this way your belly will expand and contract like a balloon. When you blow air in, the balloon expands and when you release the air, it contracts.

We need to consciously breathe deeply so that our energy barometer shows the vibrancy and vitality of our life. And as we deepen the quality of our breath, we deepen the quality of our life as well.  Exhalation is much more important than inhalation as it enables proper elimination of carbon dioxide from the blood into the lungs and from the lungs into the atmosphere. Let’s start observing our breath. How is it – strained, shallow, short, sluggish, rhythmic, gentle or slow? Let’s learn the difference between it all – for each has its place! 

Be our own Alchemists: Six steps

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We are at the threshold of a brand new year. It is time to do some stock-taking and soul-searching. Did the dying year treat us well? If yes, good!! If the answer is no, looking inside us and behind the path we have traversed is imperative. Otherwise, we are going to make the same slip-ups and have a miserable year again. And NOW is the moment to introspect.

1. Ask, ask, and ask! Did the year bring about changes? Were you able to cope with or manage those changes? Ask ourselves a lot of questions. Invest time in finding out what worked and what did not. Why did we do what did? How did it affect us? What could have been done so that the outcome would have been different? Spend some quality time by ourselves so that answers come to us without too much effort.

2. Be Aware! Asking questions – both comfortable & uncomfortable ones – will invariably give answers. Write them down. This input is essential to move on to the next stage, which is being aware. Many a time it is the total lack of awareness and sometimes complete unconsciousness about issues that made us act the way we did.

3. Acknowledge! Once we are aware of how we act, how we react and how we respond, we need to acknowledge. This is very difficult for it is a slap to our ego and inner critic. Resistance is sure to occur as the mind will protest against its loss of power. Persist and move on. Accepting our failings and imperfections is a great shift to reach the next level of awareness.

4. Forgive! Forgiveness is a great thing. First, forgive ourselves, for, it is our birthright!! In fact, there is no substitute for forgiveness. There is a certain magic that happens when we truly forgive ourselves. It is the safety valve that helps us release the pain of negative emotions, past grudges, emotional baggage and mental stress. Once you forgive yourself, others automatically are forgiven!!

5. Commitment and willingness! Both play a huge role when we are making the choice to change our lives. It doesn’t just happen, and it certainly doesn’t happen while we’re waiting around feeling sorry for ourselves and waiting for our ship to come in. Eliminate negative thoughts, self doubts and begin to move forward. When we remove mental clutter, we have more space in our hearts for new things, worthwhile things. Change needs work; daily work and daily strength.

6. Gratitude! We all face adversity in life. However, it’s not the misfortune, but how we respond to it that will determine the joy and happiness in our lives. During tough times, do we spend too much time feeling sorry for ourselves, or can we, with gratitude learn how to dance in the rain? When we choose not to focus on what’s missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present, we experience heaven on earth.

Thus we become our own alchemists, transmuting ourselves from base metal into precious gold, transforming our suffering into conscious awareness, and misery and disaster into enlightenment. Signing off toasting to our success in the new year – Each day and in everyway may we become better and better! 🙂