Benefits of Breathing Slowly
Ancient yogis believed that each of us have a certain number of breaths assigned to us the moment we are born into this world. Once we have inhaled and exhaled that final breath we expire. We can cheat the system a little bit, adding to our longevity and delaying the inevitable by mindfully focusing on making our breathing slower and deeper, getting more bang for our buck.
I love the folk wisdom embedded in the various philosophical and religious traditions. The longer this wisdom has been around, the more likely it is to contain an element of truth. Nicholas Taleb, author of ‘Antifragile’, makes the very interesting point that ideas age much differently than living organisms. If someone is seventy years old, no one assumes they will live for another seventy years. We realize that the older someone gets the less time they have left. But ideas are different. One that has been around for a hundred years is much more likely to make it another hundred years than an idea that has only been around for ten years. We can predict, for example, that Plato’s works will probably still be read and discussed in a few thousand years because these works have withstood the test of time. But a hot new theory in the public consciousness today will probably die out, only to be replaced by some other hot new theory, since that’s what happens to the vast majority of hot new theories.
This is why it behooves us to take teachings about the practice of life from the various religious traditions seriously, even if we consider the underlying assumptions to be fanciful or absurd. The ‘because’ doesn’t really matter if the recommended behavior gets good results.
In the case of breathing slowly and deeply, we don’t have to believe that we are all assigned a specific number of breaths to take on the practice and get benefits from it. These days we know that high levels of stress and anxiety are very bad for us and are associated with serious health problems like heart disease. Mindful, slow, deep breathing is incompatible with stress and anxiety. Scientific research is catching up with these ancient traditions and starting to show the tremendous benefits we can derive from devoting time every day to breathing exercises.
The yogis were right about the benefits of breathing slowly and they surely noticed that people committed to the practice lived longer than the general population, leading them to the theoretical idea that we are all assigned a specific number of breaths. What matters in our world is that taking time every day to focus on our breathing, being aware of it in the moment as we slowly and rhythmically breathe in and out, makes us feel more calm and relaxed, grounds us in the moment, and makes us feel peaceful and light. This practice directly combats the numerous stressors that bombard us all day every day in our fast paced world.