Kriyás- Bridging the body and mind
(continued from previous issue)
Balancing the Breath
It is well-known that removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the surroundings of a cell reduces Tamas or lethargy and makes it function vigorously. Kriyás accomplish this act of invigoration or activisation of cells, as we have seen before. But Pránáyáma has totally opposite effect as far as the respiratory physiology is concerned. The concentration of CO2 increases in the blood in Pránáyáma. Then, is it not dangerous? Will not the cells start getting lethargic and dull? What are the advantages of slowing down of the breath?
Since we systematically and gradually train the system for slow breathing through Pránáyáma, there will be no danger. ‘Not with great will or force’, Na Hathát Na Balát, is the injunction in Yoga which avoids all dangers, ‘Slow and steady’ - is the mandate.
The untrained cells certainly get dull with increased CO2 content around them. However, when they are trained by consciously handling the respiratory impulses reaching the respiratory centre in the brain, the cells work effectively with lesser O2 demands. This is what we term as `increasing efficiency of the cells,’ The dormant potentiality of the cells will start manifesting.
The Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the rate at which we spend energy for carrying out basic body functions. The breathing rate is almost directly proportional to BMR. (It is well-known that good sleep will reduce the BMR by about 9% in about 5 hours. Corresponding reduction of Breathing Rate (BR) is also noticed). The amount of reduction in BMR is a measure of the rest of the systems. Slowing down the breath, therefore, provides very deep rest to the body-mind complex.
The science of ‘Working in relaxation’, and ‘Attention without tension’ is imminent in Pránáyáma. We learn to work without getting tensed up, with no overtones, hypersensitivity and overreactions. With lesser energy expenditure, we accomplish the job or, as they say, ‘more mileage to a litre of petrol’. How does this happen in automobiles? By reduction in friction losses, more effective combustion of the fuel, etc.
The Royal Enfield (Bullet) motorcycle used to give about 16-20 km/litre of petrol. With the hike in prices of petrol and with newer, lighter, trouble-free 2 wheelers flooding the market in 1985-86, the sales of ‘Bullet’ came down drastically. Even the rich who used to buy ‘Bullet’ for its majestic ride said ‘why not’ ‘Hero Honda’ or ‘Yamaha’ which provided a royal finish. Soon the research wing of ‘Royal Enfield’ had a brain-storm session and improvised its carburator, jets, etc. to increase the mileage to 30-35 kms/litre! That is efficiency. For the same input–increase the output!
And that is what Pránáyáma does to us. It enhances the efficiency. Thus, we conserve the energies.
An average adult takes about 3000 calories of food. Nearly 1500-2000 calories are spent for the basic functions, if the adult is fast, sensitive and often over-reactive. By performing Pránáyáma, he needs only 500-1000 calories for the basic maintenance. He has a lot more energy to perform his other actions. That is why normal person feels energised and enthusiastic throughout the day by performing Pránáyáma for about 30 mts in the mornings.