Happiness through breath control

Adequate and harmonized (with respect to body functions and the bio electrical flows) supply of oxygen through balanced and deep breathing helps nourishing secretion and circulation of several neuropeptides (neuro-transmitters) and healthy activation of the endocrine (hormonal ) glands which lead to a state of psychosomatic calm and peace.
 
Irrespective of what makes us happy, one thing is certain that we all want to be happy. Who is there who does not want to be happy ? Is there any moment when anyone, in normal state of mind, would opt for or deliberately attempt to invite tragedy, sorrow, troubles or some other adversities? None. As noted philosopher and ancient mathematician Blaise Pascal puts it: ‘The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both (to be happy), attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.’
 
In fact every moment of life, with every breath, every being seeks happiness. There is no exception, because this is the original desire of the individual-self; its quest for unalloyed happiness is the driving force for its endless journey life after life.
 
But have we ever thought what is happiness? And, is everyone ever happy? The answers to these could be as many as the impulses of mind. (Perhaps that is why some savants say, happiness is so soothing to feel but it is so dry to talk about!) If happiness is only an impulse or excitation of mind, then every thrill of mind should have made at least someone happy. But then, someone would have achieved and experienced it all the time with varied degrees! Which of these countless experiences would have then accounted for the ‘real’ happiness? Also, why then happiness would have been such a ‘sought-after’ goal of life? If the source of happiness lay in worldly possessions, glittering resources, lavish food, charming bodies, supportive circumstances, etc then all those owning these things would have been most happy. But in reality we often see the contrary. People dying for worldly pleasure miss happiness in their mad rush for success, name, fame, luxuries and what not. Whatever ‘joy’ they feel in achieving such things is only a sting of excitation, an illusion of happiness which is never separated from the hidden shadows of fear (of losing what they have), passions (of gaining much more than what they have) and consequent stress with recurring pressures of fluctuating circumstances.
 
Worse is the mirage of those driven by the lust for sensual pleasures in the illusion of happiness; unless restrained, they often end up entrapping themselves in negativity and infirmities. The so-called ‘joy’ of wild excitement and sensual pleasures is like a cyclonic storm, which makes the mighty trees dance and the tiny leafs and dry grass fly high in the sky for a few minutes, but ruins everything the next moment. There remains nothing but a ghostly solitude of debris and fallen jungles. That is why the elevated thinkers of different ages have unanimously taught us that the secret of joy lies in restraining the extrovert passions, in limiting the sensual thirst rather than satisfying or running behind them.

It is a sign of wisdom to understand the fact that if there is any joy and peace, it will be realized only by our inner being and not by our circumstances and possessions. One says — “I am happy”, “I enjoyed myself”, or “I got bored”, etc. That means joy or boredom is not some externally defined thing, a worldly condition, or a predefined concept, rather it depends upon one’s own self, one’s own imaginations, inner makeup, experiences and feelings. If one has learn, simply to be happy in the present moment, he has won half the battle.
 
Indeed happiness is an intrinsic feeling, inexplicable in words. It is like the spirit of religion, which cannot be rationalized or confined to fixed set of conditions.

In absolute sense happiness is unalloyed joy, beatifying bliss of the unbounded consciousness-force. This is why the Vedas, Upanishads and other scriptures describe absolute happiness as the state of ultimate realization – unification of self-identity with the Brahma — the Omnipresent-Eternal (sat) Consciousness-Force, the self-existent Absolute Knowledge (cit), the Pure, Infinite, Everlasting Bliss (anand). Aristotle has echoed this fact as – Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. Thus in its origin and complete expression happiness is a spiritual experience, a characteristic of the soul, which can be realized only by enlightened saints and sages in the preeminent state of spiritual awakening. But the infinite dimensional domains of this anand (real happiness) do have intercepts in our minds and hearts. We can feel its natural flow in a calm and stable state of mind.
 
This is why savants always preach for cultivation of positive attitude, a temperament of seeing the good that dwells in every thing around. The essence of sagacious teachings is that a seeker of happiness should so think and live that his state of mind shall depend as little as possible on external happenings and things. A calm and stable mind and introvert search for the real Self provide the key to conquer the external influences and expectations. A natural query that matters to most of us here is how to achieve that state of mind, which can experience at least a sprinkle of the elixir of inner joy ?

The Vedic rishis were perfect scientists of spirituality, consciousness and nature. They had a reach in the deepest depths of the human mind and heart. They knew the hidden nature and intricacies of emotions and the influence of intrinsic impressions (sankaras) carried in the unconscious mind. They had therefore devised excellent methods of yoga, which can be practiced by anybody for mental and emotional refinement and focused orientation. These practical exercises include — prañayama (exercises of deep, harmonized breathing) with bandha and mudra; and dhyana (meditation). Most prominent and popular among the yoga practices in the present times is prañayama, as it has direct impact on the state of mind and as different kinds of prañayama happen to be pre-requisites for meditation and higher-level spiritual sadhanas.
 
Thousands of yoga-centers and schools across the globe are offering different levels of training courses or packages on elementary exercises of prañayama these days. Millions of people have benefited from sincere practices of these simple breathing exercises. With regard to happy state of mind and inner self, the positive effects of proper breathing are verifiable through modern scientific methods. Adequate and harmonized (with respect to body functions and the bioelectrical flows) supply of oxygen through balanced and deep breathing helps in nourishing secretion and circulation of several neuropeptides (neuro-transmitters) and healthy activation of the endocrine (hormonal ) glands.
 
More importantly, the upward flow of vital spiritual energy (praña) is attained through adept practice of some prañayamas, which helps refinement and controlled use of the extrasensory element of kama.
 
The upward movement of oil in a lamp helps the conversion of oil into light upon ignition. Similarly, the upward movement (through the SuÌumn³ N³Ãº2 in the endocrine column) of the vital energy of praña generates vigor, awareness and spiritual radiance. This is attained by thorough practice of specific prañayamas with mula bandha and observance of chastity of thought and conduct. By upwardly control, the sublime energy of praña immanent in kama, which otherwise drains off through stimulation and discharge of the genitals due to erotic thinking and sexual excitations, is not only preserved but is also transmuted into the spiritual energy of zeal and joy. Look at the little children! They look so cheerful and energetic all the time! This is because their kama-energy remains in the upper chakras (extrasensory energy-nucleus) along the endocrine column. Negative impulses of sensual pleasures, boosted by ego and untoward effects (e.g. erogenous pictures, stories, etc) of the surrounding environment draw its flow downwards as the child grows.
 
With increased expectations, the chances of desperation (of their fulfillment) and anger or anguish (due to their non-fulfillment) also augment and account for suppressing and maligning the pure glow of kama and triggering negative or downward flow of vital energy and thus disturbing the natural impulse of joy and vivacity. Loma -Anuloma (also called circular breathing in modern parlance) and Bhramari Prañayamas, etc help controlling these excitations and related stresses to a great extent but one also needs to minimize one’s expectations from others and change one’s attitude to adjust with the circumstances. A quote of ancient Greek philosopher, Epictetus is worth recalling here – “It is our attitude toward events, not the events themselves, which we can control.”

However, in spite of knowing all this, at times the aggressive or depressive mood of the mind is so strong that no thought of wisdom seems to work on it. In view of the fact that one cannot practice prañayamas arbitrarily, at any random time or place, one may need easy to practice physical exercises in such moments. The swara-vigyan or the science of regularizing the rhythm of breaths offers some practical solutions here.
 
One can experiment on himself to see that whenever he is in a quiet and calm mood (without any apparent reason for it !) and having positive thoughts, he must be breathing through the left nostril. His furor, excitement or abrupt, untoward thinking would, on the contrary, be mostly accompanied by respiration through the right nostril alone.
 
The lunar currents (Ida) manifested in the vibrations of breathing through the left nostril are referred as ‘chandra-swara’ and solar currents (Pingala) manifested in the vibrations of breathing through the right nostril are termed as ‘surya-swara’. In simple terms, when we breathe only through the left nostril, the chandra-swara is ‘on’ (active). When we breathe only through the right nostril, the surya-swara is active.
 
If we pay little attention to our breathing patterns, we will notice most of the time we breathe only through one nostril, either through the left or through the right. It is only at the time of changing of this flow from Ida (chandra) to Pingala (surya) i.e. left to right, or vice versa that both the swaras are active a for few moments. This change over occurs periodically in about one to three hours time on an average. The flow of vital energy and praña is active through the Sushumana Nadi at these moments. This transition takes place at characteristic timings, e.g. exactly at the moments of sunset which are of very significant importance in yoga and spiritual sadhanas.



























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