No, this is not another generic breath-mint/dating ad. True though, the quality of your breath (which includes its smell) does play a big part in the whole dating game, but its implications go deeper than that.
Yes, the smell of one’s breath could be an indication of a deeper underlying medical condition, and not just poor oral hygiene. Just like how garlic, onion, spices, and other strong flavoured foods can change the smell of your breath, infections in the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal disturbances and other ailments can also cause breath odour.
If you have exhausted all methods of oral hygiene, yet are still having bad breath, it may be time examine your diet, and maybe also pay a visit to your doctor.
Let’s have a look at another aspect of the breath that not everyone is aware of: Have you ever noticed that when you are angry, your breathing pattern is a certain way; and when you are relaxed, it is another way? When you are in pain, it is different, and when you are perfectly healthy, it is again different? And not only the frequency of the breaths are different, but also the depth.
Similarly, when you are sick you breathe differently and when you are healthy you breathe differently?
Your emotions and thoughts (energetic body) affect your breath. So does your physical body.
According the The Yoga Sutras, there are Eight Limbs of Yoga, and Pranayama (breathing practices) is the fourth. Patanjali recognized the importance of the breath – in fact the word ‘Prana’ itself directly translates from Sanskrit into ‘life force’. By recognizing the relationship between the physical body, energetic body and breath, he came to the realization that we can utilize the breath to affect our energetic and physical bodies.
Imagine this: you’re on holiday, at an island. You step out of your hotel, make your way towards the beach, and the instant you see that beautiful, relaxing scenery, what automatically happens? More often than not, most of us give a deep sigh of relaxation and contentment. And with that sigh, all the stress and tension of our daily lives exit our bodies too.
Now you know why people tell you to take a long, deep breath when you are getting upset?
The breath is the key in yoga. You can be practicing asana for yonks but if you are not breathing correctly during your practice, you are not gaining the maximum benefits of your practice. Also bear in mind that when it comes to the breath, you cannot leave it on your mat as you would your asana practice – your breath is always with you 24/7!
But what does it matter how I breathe during my practice? If I breathe faster, I get through the five breath count quicker and therefore can go through my practice faster!
There was once I attended a Mysore-style Ashtanga class, and the lady next to me needed the teacher’s assistance to go into Marichyasana D. She did go into the pose, but her five breaths were so loud and labored that one would think she was in labour!
The breath is also another reason why Patanjali said ‘shitra sukham asanam’ – the pose must be steady and comfortable. If we push ourselves too much, our breath gets disturbed, and we end up agitating all our bodies – energetic, mental and physical. On the other hand, if we are too comfortable, we do not gain any benefits from our practice. It is of utmost importance to find the middle way.
Sometimes, we imitate illness through our breathing patterns. Have you noticed the connection between everything we have just gone through? We go to a yoga class to be healthier, fitter and more relaxed, yet at the same time we don’t realize that we are actually harming ourselves more than anything else!
In the following weeks we will further explore our breathing mechanism, and also take a look at the various Pranayama techniques there are in yoga, as well as how we can incorporate them in our asana practice and in our daily lives as well.