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Breathe better

The long, slow, deep breath is the most basic form of pranayama.

When one is under severe stress, one's breathing is rapid, shallow and irregular. This rapid, shallow breathing starve the body and brain of its needed oxygen. To correct that, simply inhale through your nose and try to fill the base of your lungs. Let the belly come out first, then allow the breath to come up to the middle portion of the lungs. Finally, hold the breath briefly, at the top of your lungs. Breathe out slowly, in reverse order through your nose. Focus your mind on your breath. If your mind wanders, return the mind's focus to the breath.

There you are... mystery removed. Pranayama is as simple as breathing. I suggest that you try the simple exercise above and see for yourself. You may discover that this simple act of respiration, which you repeat so many times each and every minute of your life, can be improved and modified, with a bit of concious practice.

In this project of cognitive enhancement we will not get much more complicated with pranayama, than the above exercise. This exercise can be taken to extremes, if you wish to experiment. Remember, the heart beats four times for every complete breath. When I was being trained in pranayama, I would easily put myself in a state, in which my heart rate was one beat per minute... one full breath every four minutes. I could have slowed futher but I did not see the need. This simple technique has saved my life, when, on a long kayak voyage, I was held under water, trapped in a collapsd kayak, for a very, very long time. I actually came to the surface laughing, because I knew that I had gone past any self-imposed limit.

Besides helping to relieve and prevent stress, this technique is important for brain function because it increases the capacity of the lungs. Thus, it supplies more oxygen to all the cells in your body, including those in your brain.

I will be introducing one or two additional breathing exercises, in the future. And, we'll work on increasing the utilization of this added oxygen. For now, practice the above exercise.

For those, who are interested in some background yogic theory.... Through the practices of Pranayama, a certain amount of heat is generated which influences the existing quantum of energy or Prana. For example, if you produce heat in a vessel, it will heat the existing air.

We all have a certain amount of Prana which gives us life and maintains our organs. Pranayama serves to heat that quantum of Prana which then ascends along the spinal column into the Ajna Chakra. When sufficient heat is generated within the system, the Ajna Chakra sends a feedback to the base (the mooladhara) of kundalini and the dormant potential energy is awakened to increase the energy flow to the Ajna Chakra. This is the purpose of Pranayama.

While Pranayama serves to awaken the kundalini, certain Pranayamas are done to purify the carrying channels so that this increased energy can be handled appropriately. For example, the Ujjayi pranayama clears the pingala nadi for the ascension of kundalini.

The science of Pranayama is based on the retention of prana called 'kumbhaka'. Inhalation and exhalation are merely incidental. Those who are serious in awakening the hidden recesses of the brain need to perfect the art of retention (kumbhaka). During kumbhaka there is an increased blood flow into the brain and simultaneously heat is generated in the system.

The heat generates an increased energy in an electrical form. This electrical spark alters the chemical structure of the cerebral fluid which surrounds the brain. When this fluid is chemically influenced, it affects the behaviour of the brain.

Tomorrow, a bit about 'retention.'

Any questions??