"What is the mode of growth, and the mode of maintenance, of the natural vital spirit?" So begins the philosophical treatise often attributed to Aristotle titled On Breath. All of the world's wisdom traditions emphasize the importance of focused breathing to human self-awareness and wellbeing.
In the Breath of Life, a Buddhist text found within the Theregatha (Verses of the Elder Monks) we are told: "Mindfulness of the in-and-out breath, Illuminates the entire world, Like the moon when freed from clouds."
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius reminds himself in his diary that we are but "body, breath and mind". When these are well cared for, we are able to "remember that we are separate from outside events and circumstance, worries about what might happen in the future, what others do or say...freedom consists in detaching."
In other words, there is self-awareness, self-mastery, well-being and freedom in the breath. What an important reminder in our fast-paced world where there is "no time to bleed", let alone breathe.
Modern neuroscience is proving that focusing on the timing and pace of our breath has positive effects on our body and mind. A recent study in the Journal of Neurophysiology reveals that several brain regions linked to emotion, attention, and body awareness are activated and regulated when we pay attention to our breath.
Calming breathe settles the nervous system, soothes and regulates the parts of the brain linked to stress, anxiety and emotional outbursts. It also allows the part of your brain responsible for reason, rational thought and decision-making to direct our steps.
Consider it your job to breathe well.