I was a long-time skeptic of meditation; not because I didn’t want to try it but when I did, it felt uncomfortable. This was the case for some time until I came across a regular meditator a few years ago. He taught me how “breath awareness” is a needed practice in meditation. The more I practiced, the more I realized the importance of it; how knowing the function of my breath is directly related to the quality of my life.
We breathe to survive
We breathe about 20,000-30,000 a day. It is the most repetitive task we do as humans because it’s how we function; we breathe because we need oxygen to live. We take in about 20% oxygen with every inhalation, 0.04% carbon dioxide & 79% nitrogen (which don’t contribute to the function of our respiratory system). And we exhale about 16% oxygen, 4% carbon dioxide & the same amount of nitrogen inhaled. The whole purpose of the respiratory system is to extract oxygen from the air, deliver it to our cells through the lungs, and take carbon dioxide out of our cells.
For most of us, being aware of our breath or meditating can be a daunting process because we are not connected to our breath. Our respiratory system may be involuntary but our sensory world greatly affects this connection.
The sensory world we live in
Let’s face it, we have created a world where our sensors are still playing catch-up with; we consume everything in excess. We have access to too much information about what we eat, drink, see, hear and smell. Especially living in this pandemic era, we are exposed to a lot of opinions, news, pollution and it is pushing us towards living in unpredictable environments.
This is something we are prepared for on an evolutionary level. We come from a long line of ancestors who beat the odds of unpredictability to be here. But we have also created more complex structures to live in and it is overloading our senses, making our nervous system out of balance.
Finding balance through breathing
Our external respiration, or what our lungs do, is ultimately to support our internal respiration; this includes our nervous system which governs our fight/flight & rest/digest functions. If the nervous system is not balanced in unpredictable environments, we are most likely to give in to our fear, making us tense, rigid, and shallow breathers. Breath awareness is about cultivating homeostasis or natural inner balance. It is about being aware of life’s unpredictability, observing how we respond/react in such times, and finding balance in our breath so we can find balance in our “being”.
Isn’t that something we all need in these uncertain times?
Come join our upcoming free pranayama session with Sharmila!
Sharmila is a 200hr YTT practitioner who leads a beautifully structured pranayama session filled with nervous system resetting tools.
Breatheology-the art of conscious breathing. Severinsen, S. Å., Lennox-Krause, J., & FID Verlag GmbH Fachverlag für Informationsdienste. (2017). Die geheime Kraft der Atmung. Beltz Verlag
Saraswati, S. N. (2016). Prana and Pranayama (First digital edition 2016 ed.). Yoga Publications Trust.