Inevitably we think of the yogi’s conscious study of the art of breathing as an important practice and an integral part of the philosophy of Ahimsa or non-violence that is applied to the discipline.
Modern acceptance of respiration now focuses upon the importance of oxygen but also upon necessity for adequate carbon dioxide. This modifies the western teaching that has been well established in the previous attitude towards these gases that oxygen is ‘good’ and carbon dioxide ‘bad’. Nature requires that these gases are balanced to result in good physical health. Successful remedial programmes demonstrate this point.
Too much emphasis is made by some yoga students upon exertion of the breathing process by straining to achieve mastery. These efforts can sometimes interfere with the natural rhythm that must be seen as the way nature generally works. In this case, when at rest, the breathing is relaxed and even. Although various techniques are taught and can be used for specific purposes, it must not be at the expense of straining the gentle rhythm that Nature conducts in keeping us alive. We need to inhale life and to express life.
In the case of respiratory symptoms, mainly of asthma, it is soothing to introduce the direct inhalation of natural essential oils that offer a fine selection of different scents, some of which will be found pleasing to the patient and best practised in the privacy of the home when it is possible to isolate one perfume from another.
The yoga system offers techniques to release strain on certain parts of the body.
Asthmatics suffer strain on two major nerve centres and will benefit by the use of the
Uddiyana Bandha or solar plexus lock, and the Jalandhara Bandha or chin lock. These must be demonstrated clearly by the teacher with the purpose of using pressure and release of muscular tension on these centres.
Gentle stretches through spinal movements will help to establish muscular balance on either side of the spine although in many cases massage and the need for adjusting any chronic spinal mal-placement must be also considered as an additional help from a professional.
The nutritional aspect is very important and the diet should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables with reduction of cheese and dairy produce initially, together with a reduction in starchy foods, breads and pasta. When changes in the diet result in easing the respiratory spasms the overall diet can be reassessed. It is a difficult subject on which to generalize too much as each of us has such individual tastes and powers of digestion.
It is advisable to give a trial period without meat.
Because the yogi looks upon breathing being not only a physical health necessity but is the lifeline that not only helps integrate the several aspects of the psyche but is the means
of connection of spirit to body and the spiritual connection of the individual to the universal, so providing our personal lifeline to our Life Source.