In my last post on Pranayama – The Beginner’s Guide, I showed how our breath mirrors our state of mind and why one should practice Pranayama regularly for improved mental health.
The ancient yogis who regularly practiced it, were said to possess great calm, a radiant face, long life and a phenomenal memory. Is it possible to gain all this just by breathing through a different technique? Well, as you already are aware each and every emotion translates into our breath. You are angry, you breath fast, depressed, you breath slow and you are calm and thinking deep, very slow.
This time, however, I want to draw focus to the reasons why it is said that this breathing technique also has the power to increase one’s life expectancy.
After reading this post, you’ll know:
- Can a conscious breathing influence one’s longevity?
- Is it proved medically?
- Or is it all myth existent in metaphorical ‘yogic’ terms?
Nature inspires Pranayama to improve memory and quality of life.
I believe, the ancient yogis observed nature very closely, for they were able to make out why a tortoise who breathes very slow (4 breaths per minute) lives much longer than a rabbit, who breathes fast (20-30 breaths per minute), and dies fast too.
So, what happens when you withdraw your senses from everything material, and focus on your breath, your life force?
You breath slow. But also you begin to notice things, that you earlier assumed to be non-existent. And hence, your memory sharpens, along with your focus. That’s how undercover soldiers are trained to observe everything, and retain it with precision, for later use.
In a similar way, the yogis are able to slow breathing rate to a level that matches animals in hibernation (long, deep winter sleep). Hence, metabolism slows down, and so does the wear and tear. Ageing is delayed, and you live much longer.
Well that’s how a yogi would tell you. But, we are all learnt people here, we can reason, and we must.
So, I researched, if there was any scientific proof available to back such claims, and to my surprise, there are. Many, in fact!
1. Pranayama can cleanse your lymph system.
Jack Shields, a Californian lymphologist got curious, if Pranayama could influence lymphatic system.
For those who are not well versed with it, let me tell you, lymphatic system is another circulatory system of body, just like blood circulatory system, with a sole difference of lack of a pumping organ like heart. As is implied, the circulation and cleansing of lymph vessels becomes very difficult, and this sometimes poses some serious health risks too.
So, Jack shield planted a minute camera in his subject’s body, to discern what stimulated cleansing of the lymphatic system. What he found was that deep diaphragmatic breathing creates a vacuum, that literally sucks lymph through the blood stream, and accelerates the pace at which the lymph eliminates toxins.
And that’s how techniques of Pranayama multipliy this lymphatic cleansing process at fifteen times the normal rate.
2. Pranayama can prevent cancer too!
Increased respiratory rates are seen only in people suffering from diseases like fever, cystic fibrosis or chronic conditions like HIV/AIDS. All chronic pain and suffering are caused by the lack of oxygen at the cellular level. This has been proven medically too. Keeping aside the secondary causes, cancerous development in cells takes place primarily when they are denied 60% of their oxygen requirements.
With Pranayama, you consciously lower your respiratory rate to 5-6 breaths per minute. So, your focus shifts from “breathing-to-sustain” to “breathing-to-oxygenate.” The reduced rate of breathing soothes nerves and mind which further lessens rate of wear and tear.
3. It’s a fantastic strength training for heart.
Now, why do I say that? Our heart and brain are two most important organs of our body. Haven’t you ever wondered why they are protected by such strong cages of rib and skull? Brain might fall asleep (in parts), and re-calibrate itself but our hearts work non-stop. And precisely that’s why, a straight ECG line is considered sign of a dead man.
Biology also tells us that, coronary blood vessels (those that deliver nutrients to heart) are one of the thinnest in our body and hence, sometimes when they are not fully flushed with oxygen, heart may come into a state of arrest (infarction). So, Pranayama strengthens cardiac muscles, by giving heart more oxygen to pump through blood.
Your aerobic might use heart rate as an indicator of calories burned but remember, heart too needs optimum supply of oxygen for itself. So, every 60 minute aerobic workout session must be followed by at least 6 minutes of Pranayama, where you focus on keeping your heart healthy.
4. Pranayama promotes healthy ageing.
What is healthy ageing? Healthy ageing refers to, embracing old age with open arms – by staying away from problems like arthritis, stiffened arteries, loss of vitality, etc. When the blood is fully oxygenated and well circulated, all these problems stay far distant and one enjoys old age just like their youth.
5. Pranayama, eventually makes you live more.
I think a portion of it is what I have already proved (medically), but here I quote that more in metaphorical terms. When you meditate on your breath, your mind calms down and gradually you learn how to replicate that calmness in times of distress. So, in a way Pranayama makes you live more, by slowing down the pace of your thoughts, and you begin noticing beauty, happiness, and peace, which you earlier thought were non-existent.
I’d like to cite a short story here:
Somebody asked Buddha, if he had gained anything through meditation. Buddha replied, “Nothing. However, I must tell you what I have lost through meditation: anger, anxiety, doubt, depression, fear of old age and death.”
Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God. -Krishnamacharya
2. Lack of oxygen in body tissues creates a defect of red blood cells that further exacerbates the condition by constricting blood vessels in the lung – News-Medical.net
References  Prasad, R., & Robertson, C. The Breath of Life-Pranayama. (docx). ^Back to Top^  Dr. Warburg. Increasing Cellular Oxygen Levels Kills Cancerous Cells. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1750066). ^Back to Top^  Brown RP, Gerbarg PL. Yoga breathing, meditation, and longevity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Aug;1172:54-62. Review. PubMed PMID: 19735239. ^Back to Top^
Last Updated: May 22, 2014
Next Scheduled Update: Jul 22, 2014