From the Desk of Coordinator, Bioinformatics Centre

The Breath of Life and Beyond

The breath we breathe in and out without respite is termed as Prāna or the bioenergy or life force which endows man with an unlimited spiritual potential. Breath is a wireless connection to transcend the entire field of mind and matter by meditation and experience bliss. According to the yogic view, man is part of cosmic phenomenon and continuously exchanges bioenergy through his breathing with the cosmic power outside of him. Respiratory rate goes up in anger, after physical strain or under mental stress while it goes down when one is in relaxation or sleep. As roses and jasmine flowers spread out fragrance into the environment, it is possible that the regulated breathing by the chemicals produced by positive or negative emotions of man, do influence the environment at subtle level.

Pranayama, the  controlled and conscious breathing helps in calming and purifying effects on the body-mind complex. Slow, relaxed and deep (abdominal) breathing reduces stress, deepens insight, expands consciousness and increases intuitive perception. The yogic disciplines such as abdominal breathing, shavasana and meditation admirably bring about a reduction in the sympathetic activity and increases the inner strength of the individual and foster the feeling of connectedness bringing reduction in stress. Constant awareness or concentration on normal breathing or parts of body as in Vipassana meditation or Yognidra, quietens mind and helps in coming over stressful situations. Mindfulness is defined as a non-judgemental moment-to-moment awareness without drifting into thoughts of the past or future. At University of Massachusetts Medical Centre, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program through sitting meditation and body scan (full attention to the parts of the body) has been very helpful in decreasing chronic pain (low back, headache and neck / shoulder pain).  Even a short programme of mindfulness meditation produces lasting positive changes in both brain and the functions of the immune system (Davidson et al., 2004).   

Asthma, a gift of junk foods, modern life style and polluted environment, is increasing in the recent years. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of USA says that the prevalence of asthma around the world has doubled in the last 15 years. WHO estimates that between 100-150 million people around the globe have asthma with about two lakh deaths each year due to asthma. There are attempts to explore Alternate Systems of Medicine in management of asthma. In a study by Cooper etal. (Thorax, 2003), the Buteyko breathing technique improved symptoms and reduced bronchodilator  use to some extent whereas use of Pink City Lung Exerciser (mimics Pranayama) did not show benefit. This is in contrast to the encouraging results observed at Yoga Institutes. The failure with objective prototype studies is possibly due to lack of spiritual element and positive attitude. Emotional involvement of individual along with yoga way of living may give better results.           



July 1, 2004                                      Prof. B.  C.  Harinath