I was surprised to find out in a yoga class how much I was NOT breathing. Of course, I breathe, thought I - I don't even have to think about it. But that was the problem, I realized. I was so consumed with everyday living that I failed to notice that my breathing had become more shallow over the years.
If you watch a baby breathing, they take deep breaths and fill their lungs with air and release. As humans, we are hard-wired to have a fight or flight reaction to any stressors and our breathing becomes more shallow as a result. As we grow older, and with more stressors, our breathing gets less and less relaxed. This means less oxygen to the blood and the body has to work harder, putting even more stress on it and we get ill as a result. A lot of heart diseases could be averted with proper breathing techniques. Deep breathing increases the oxygen intake and slows down the heart rate.
But this is not just about the action of breathing. It really is about slowing down. We live in such an 'instamatic' world that everything needs to be done better and faster. We are moving through this world at dizzying speeds with nary a pause for a swig of water or a tire change. We work longer days than we did 50 years ago; we are bombarded by a myriad stimuli every waking moment and because everything moves so much faster, we try to get in in a lot more each day.
I've learnt that sometimes we all need to renew our spirit. Take time to really breathe; smell the roses; meditate - whatever name you choose to call it. The opening line of Max Ehrmann's Desiderata - one of the most succinct guides for living - says: "Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence..."