Saturday, June 27, 2020

Book Review; The Science of Breath

Science Of Breath
A Practical Guide
Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine M.D.,
and Alan Hymes

Reviewed by Trina Perdue
ChayaVeda YTT Student

I had so many moments of “aha!” while reading this book, For example, I've always wondered why houses seem to fall in on themselves or go into disrepair so quickly when no one lives in them. It's like they know no one is inside breathing! The answer is prana! How can we be walking, talking, laughing, growing, blinking, etc.. one minute, and boom! Something can happen that stops the  breath, and it all stops-the heart, the “animation” is gone and we decay. Prana no longer occupies that body.

This book states that “prana is the link between the body and mind”. It's what animates us and it flows through the universe. Our breath is how we connect to it.

In the very first chapter, first page, in fact it says many of the amazing “feats” a yogi can accomplish or perform are done by first controlling the breath. By the end of the book it made perfect sense!

From our western view, most of our day to day dealings are with the material things. Yoga sees us as multifaceted, beings. In this lies that “power”. Our breath is the only thing that can be either voluntary or involuntary. If we can take control of that, we can open that window to control of things we didn't know we had control over! Our breath changes with our emotions and physical condition, so doesn't it make sense that if we can take control of our breath, it will in return affect our emotions and even our physical condition?

Physically, there are so many things about how and where the breath goes that will govern what we see and feel as the outcome of  taking a breath. The nose is much more than just something to hold up glasses on our face. It has many jobs- preparing the temperature and humidity of the air are just the first things. The nose is centrally located so that new air comes into contact quickly with the brain, nervous system and pituitary gland. Then there's the first cranial nerve, which is how we process scent.  There are 3 types of breathing- clavicular, thoracic and diaphragmatic. Diaphragmatic is the most efficient. Because of gravity, the blood is already in the lower lungs. This will give the blood the highest amount of oxygen. We tend to be shallow breathers today, which is obviously not the ideal scenario. Negative emotions (fear, jealousy, rage, and sexual issues etc...) are held in the lower chakras. We tend to hold our diaphragm tight and not breath fully. We lock those emotions down and pile them up, not letting them be released through the breath.

We don't always breath the same volume of air through both nostrils. The coordination of this is called the “infradian rhythm”. We can even use this to our advantage depending on what task we are trying to accomplish. This has to do with the left/right brain, the nervous system, and the Ida, Pingala, and sushumna nadis. Here is where we get into pranayama. Ideally, with control of the breath, practicing and focusing, we can learn to let those held emotions, negative beliefs, and judgments release. We can get prana, first flowing up and down through the Ida and pingula, then up the sushumna

This book gives the processes you can use, but also warns that some of them need to be taught by experienced yogis. In getting the prana to rise through the sushumna, we are given a feeling of extreme joy. I believe also, that this leads us to genuinely see our true nature, which is being one with each other, the universe and all things. 

Once we see that, how can we not love each other?  

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