The nature of modern life drives us towards progress and technology. The more complicated and mysterious something becomes, the more attractive and satisfying it seems to the hungry mind.

Thus, the mind constantly searches for something new. Even within the spiritual journey there is a new practice, a new school, a new meditation constantly emerging. Yet the paradox is that the most simple and ancient techniques are most powerful and transformative.

Breathing is a simple activity - we all do it continuously. However we don't necessarily do it well. Wholesome, efficient breathing requires consciousness and mindful appreciation. Taking a moment to sit still, with eyes closed, absorbed in the process of breathing already leads to a transformation of consciousness. Vishwaguru Paramhans

Swami Maheshwaranand Puri Ji writes, "Quiet, regular and deep breathing is decisive for our health. It has a harmonising and calming effect upon the body and mind. On the other hand, breathing that is too rapid and shallow has a negative influence upon us, as it can intensify nervousness, stress, tension and pain."

The breathing process bridges the borders between the layers of consciousness. To a certain extent everyone can control their breath - lengthening, shortening, deepening, stopping, quickening etc.

Yet at the same time it is a process that, in order for us to live, continues even if we are not consciously aware of it. Thus in the breath we have a rare tool - one that we can work with quantitively, physically feeling the process - which at the same time affects us deeply on subconscious levels and influences our state of mind.

Our autonomic nervous system, which controls the automatic or involuntary functions of the body such as the digestive, respiratory, immune and cardiovascular systems also has a major role in our reactions and response to stress.

Breathing is the one of these autonomic systems that can most easily be controlled voluntarily. Thus through the breath and pranayama we have an access point to the autonomic nervous system which can powerfully effect our thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

Through mindful awareness of the breath and the practice of the Pranayama the quality, effectiveness and pattern of our breath can be refined and transformed. Considering that an average person breathes 22,000 times per day, even the smallest change of breath awareness can have profound effects upon our physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

By Mahamandaleshwar Swami Jasraj Puri from the Yoga in Daily Life Tradition.

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