“A yogi measures the span of life by the number of breaths, not by the number of years.” -Swami Sivananda
The secret to long life is not a concoction of magic potions, but rather something that we all have access to. And best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing. “What could it be?” you ask. Well, quite simply, it’s your breath.
Most people use only a fraction of their lung capacity to breathe; their breath is shallow and the ribcage barely expands. After years of improper breathing and lack of oxygen, it is not uncommon for shoulders to become slumped and painful tension to be felt in the upper part of the back and neck.
Practicing Pranayama, which in Sanskirt means life force, helps us to improve our breathing techniques and essentially increase our life span. Although it would take a lifetime to master all the types of Pranayamas, by practicing Ujjayi, Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma to name a few, an increase in life span has been scientifically proven to be achieved.
“How can this be?” you ask. Well, a simple explanation is this. When breathing slows, (the respiratory rate decreases) the heart doesn’t need to work as hard to pump the blood throughout the body. This gives the heart and the all other systems in our body (especially the nervous system) a break. Somewhat like a fine-tuned car, this gives us more mileage. It’s no surprise then that the Giant Tortoise whose breathing rate is 4 breaths per minute has a life span of around 150 years!