Of the 5 basic elements, we have looked at Soil and Water. In this article we will look at Air. Air is a vital element that is directly in our experience on a moment to moment basis. We can immediately make out when the air is polluted and when it is clean. Without constant exchange of air between our lungs and the external environment, we cannot exist. Yet, on any given day, how many of us are aware of our breath? It is so much a part of us that we forget that we even breathe. We take it for granted without the realization that it is the one blessing that keeps us alive.
The deeper we breathe, the more oxygen rich our cells become. An oxygen rich environment spells death knell on disease born viruses that attempt a violent take over of the cells to inhabit and spread the disease.
Usually people who are sedentary tend to catch infections quite easily. One of the reasons is that their lung capacity is quite small. There are 2 ways to improve your lung capacity – through exercise and yoga (that includes breathing practices and meditation). Those who exercise regularly have a larger lung capacity and take in more oxygen which is a good defense against viruses. People who do yoga that involves breathing practices (called pranayama) tend to have a much larger lung capacity which provides a great barrier for virus borne diseases.
Certain types of breathing practices also enhance one’s consciousness. Enhancing one’s spiritual growth and consciousness through the use of breath is the main focus of the yogic science. Breathing practice infuses the body and the organs with oxygen. Therefore health is a natural consequence of an oxygenated body. That is why yogic science considers health as a natural state of being for ALL. So the next step of growth for a human being is that of elevating consciousness. That is where the management of air in the body comes into play and becomes the main focus of yoga. Yoga refers to air as “Vayu”. Most of the yogic practices that involve an element of breathing are aimed towards vayu or prana vayu.
The quality of air that we breathe and how we breathe largely determines people’s experience of life and advancement on the spiritual path. Through certain breathing practices one can gain mastery over the life energy or “prana”. Having mastery over the prana or life energy enhances sharpness of intellect. Our emotions become more stable, organized, and sweet. We are also able to conduct our physical activity better than we used to. So in this sense air plays a vital role in transforming our lives.
On the spiritual path transforming other elements like water and earth takes times and effort. However there is an immediacy about air that gives us the ability to bring changes in our system quickly. Remember when you are angry you are told to breathe deeply and count to 10. Yes that is right. You immediately feel your anger dissipating. That is the power of air.
Doing certain breathing practices or “pranayama” enhances your ability to manage your life energies. Life is nothing but a certain amount of time and energy. If you keep your life energy or prana vayu very intense, you will seem to have more time. Activity will happen out of the effervescence of your energy, not out of effort. So the next time someone says “Don’t blow hot air”, you can promptly respond “Just chill, air is Vital”
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