Random Musings #45: Breathe Every Breath!
A stream of cool air flows down with nary a catch or even the slightest hint of a rasp or rustle. Clean, clear and smooth. Pleasantly stroking the sides of the wind pipe seemingly passing all the way to my abdomen.
We have just finished two hours of badminton. Just the four of us this Saturday — which allowed for a dozen or so games. Switching partners for best of threes. Tight and close, with almost all games going to the wire. Easy camaraderie too from a shared interest, a passion even.
I am sweating profusely from the intense workout, despite the air-conditioned courts, what with the early onset of a very warm and very, very humid summer. But blessedly, barely out of breath. A couple of hours thrice a week in recent months has done good for my stamina and lung capacity. My game also seems to be marginally improving after years or, rather, decades of racquet sport though, of course, my enthusiasm continues to exceed my talent. By a mile!
It feels good. “I am reminded of the sensation after an AOL session”, I say to no one in particular as we make our way from the courts to the car park.
Indeed, I quite subscribe to the science of breathing within Art of Living. Though I would prefer to keep my thoughts on the other two of the three AOL aspects, as I see them, — service and spirituality — private.
Breathing is such a basic thing. That’s the first thing that we do when we are born and the very last thing that we will do before we pass on. And something that we have done and will do for every moment in-between.
Yet, I get this wrong almost all the time. By failing to be conscious of my breathing. And taking shallow breaths. Clearly, anything but mindful as with so many other things.
That’s possibly why I have struggled with the pulmonary test during my medicals over the years. And struggle to swim more than a couple of lengths of the pool. And also why I have never been a runner and still cannot run a decent distance, even to save my life.
I do have brief bouts of being conscious about breathing well and breathing deeply. But these are rare. Mostly, I am breathing as if I am breathing in rarefied air!
Breathing deeply is a no-brainer! The deeper I breathe I would be taking in more oxygen. “…extra oxygen does wonders for the body and mind. It cleanses, opens and soothes different parts of our being…” writes UB therapist Andrea Watkins, LCSW. “…did you know that deep breathing is one of our easiest, most convenient and natural tools to combat issues like stress and anxiety, reduce pain, high blood pressure and even aid in digestion?”, she asks.
Actually, to cut myself some slack, she does also say that deep breathing doesn’t actually come that naturally to us and that, apparently, it takes practice. Phew, I breathe (a light, shallow breath!) a sigh of relief. I may still have a chance!
Deep breathing is called diaphragmatic breathing, I learn now. That is, fully engaging the stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm when breathing. It is also called ‘belly breathing’! Well, that is fine then, for I am well equipped in that area!!
Of course, I hope that my AOL instructors from both Dubai and Singapore are not reading this as, surely, they will wonder if I had been even listening when they said exactly this to me. And might ask me to go and help out at the nearby Choithrams like Lakshmi, my Dubai instructor, did when I responded honestly that I hadn’t done my homework of writing down reflections from the previous class!
Anyway, better late than never. Well and truly past the mid-point of life and approaching that phase when being healthy matters above all, for quality of life, remaining life, at least from now on.
So, how am I going to remind myself to breathe deeply every now and then or, reasonably, often enough?
Practice means a routine and a schedule like with anything else! So, I am going to have to find slots to ‘practice’ belly breathing a few times a day. On waking up, or just before going to sleep, and while still in bed? While shaving? While driving to work and back? While at my desk and between mails and calls? During the lunch break? While in front of the TV? While walking around the block? Hmm, sounds like quite a few opportunities. How do I get myself to remember though? As I was writing this, an idea occurs. Maybe I should put a reminder on my phone calendar for a few times doing the day? And while I am at it, I will also do well to remember to drink that glass of water. And to get up and walk around — sitting, the new smoking indeed!
Breathing well. Drinking enough water. Moving about. Basic things to keep me reasonably healthy and fit. I need to remind myself though to do these. Regularly. And do them well. Even though it should be second nature.
What else am I forgetting to do, then? To do regularly? And to do well?
Something I read recently springs to mind. Whether Buddha actually said this or not, it does make sense.
“In the end, only three things matter. How much you loved. How gently you lived. And how graciously you let go of things not meant for you”.
Now, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?
To Breathe. To Love. Both Deeply.
To Drink Enough Water. To Live Gently. The Elixirs of Life.
To Graciously Let Go Of Things Not Meant For You. To Move About. To Not Be Stuck In One Place!