I do some 10 minutes of Pranayamas (ancient yogic breathing exercises) and then I meditate in the morning. Depending on the time, I give myself some 20-30 minutes in total. If I for some reason fall out of my practice I notice after a few days how I get more unhealthy, starting with the non-mass part of me (the energy or vitality) that drops. In other words I loose Prana. I get easily irritated, worried, sad… If I continue like that I know it will sooner or later manifest in my body.
When we take a deep breath, holding the air we work the diaphragm and other muscles. It starts of a whole range of biochemical and neurological impulses to our body and mind. If you fill your lungs with air, from bottom up, you tell yourself to stop stressing. If you notice that you only breathe in the upper part of you lungs, you probably have high levels of stress hormones, and you need to stop and breath mindfully. A smoker that takes a drag from a cigarette gets calm because of the neurological effect of the deep breath before the nicotine kicks in.
Pranayamas provide higher levels of oxygen too, just as when we run. This gives the muscles and the metabolism a kick. That’s why it is a good practice if you need to loose weight. Also it is part of the detox system. It enhances the detox, and physical exercise, and is a fantastic start to a meditation. We teach all about it at the retreats.
On top of all the above, I’d like to describe mindful breathing as feeling alive and gratitude for it. Like all that we love, often it is when we loose it that we notice it. When I breathe I feel hugely grateful for being alive, for the body I was given, at the time and place it was given to me. I take air in, connect with the outside through it. I feel huge gratitude to the universe for all it has given me, and for this body allowing me to learn and explore. How can I take care of it?