Learning to control our body and emotions begins with deepening our breathing. The lungs are organs we can control with our conscious mind. In dance, fitness, swimming, martial arts and meditative practices, the breath is the gate through which we can gain control of our body and it’s potential. Even everyday activities such as driving, reading, enjoying television, and being on the computer rely on deep breathing. We can only engage in these activities to the extent that we can sit or stand comfortably.
Breathing can be both involuntary and voluntary. We breathe in our sleep automatically and in our waking, we breathe regularly, without thinking about it. Consciously, we can also choose to change the rhythm or depth of our breathing. This use of the mind to cultivate the body is the very basis of spiritual cultivation. A habit of slow and deep breathing relaxes the vagus nerve and thus, all the organs and the nervous system.
Breathing is, of course, related to the heart rate. If we breathe quickly and shallowly, as after running, our heart rate increases. Shallow breathing can be caused by stress, but it can also cause stress, because the nervous system is in a heightened state. If we are breathing slowly and deeply, our heart rate decreases. Medical providers say the first thing they do in an emergency is to take their own pulse. In times of stress at work, with family, or in a real-life dangerous situation, we can use this advice. Check our breathing, check our pulse, and breathe more deeply until our body and emotions are under control. When we act or react from a stressed and heightened state, we are more likely to do something we regret. There are 81 Taoist practices for breathing and relaxing the body in the book:
The Alchemist’s Tao Te Ching:
Transforming Your Lead Into Gold