These days, it’s almost become a fashion, a competition, even a pastime for people to sit and compare their doctors’ prescriptions or even their surgeries! Society has become so unhealthy that almost every other person is on painkillers, tranquilizers, sedatives, or some other form of medication. And more often than not, it’s because the mind is in tension and turmoil, anxiety, and depression.

If we take a closer look at both body and mind, we see how intimately they are connected. What bridges them is the breath. Now, when the mind is in stress, sorrow, grief, or fear, a corresponding effect is seen in the body, and this is that the body starts to tremble. For example, when one hears the news of a relative’s demise, immediately the breath starts to become shallow, and its pace starts to quicken – one is almost panting with anxiety. Inhalation becomes shallow, and the outbreath too is not proper, leading to trembling. Neurons from the spinal cord reach the brain, and when fear and trauma occur, the entire body literally gets shaken up. The trembling, in turn, affects our breathing, making it more erratic. The heart starts pounding, and the pulse starts racing. Blood pressure escalates and most likely, a heart ‘attack’ ensues. In this way, sorrow and fear make the body vulnerable to sickness and disease.

Not a very wonderful scenario, is it? But there’s hope! And this is where the psychology of yoga comes to our aid, giving us the most simple yet powerful tools and techniques to manage the body and mind, no matter how challenging the situation. More than 2500 years ago, Rishi Patanjali, codifier of the Yoga Sutras, the terse aphorisms of yoga, delineated how intricately body, mind, and breath affect each other and how we can manage, harmonize, and ultimately transcend our mental afflictions and modifications. In fact, all over the world today, massive research is taking place on this wonderful science which Rishi Patanjali has presented, and these profound sutras are now being called the Bible of the Mind.

In a situation where one is experiencing intense fear to the point of feeling dizzy, with the heart thumping like crazy, the quickest, safest, simplest way out is to just sit with the spine erect and take a long, deep breath, slowly releasing it through the mouth. This should be done for a short time, and then one returns to inhaling and exhaling through the nose.

This is the beauty of yoga psychology. No harmful medicines, no dangerous drugs with their killer side-effects; rather, the benefits of deep breathing are manifold. Now, for those who never do any spiritual practice or meditate, they will easily fall into depression, weep buckets of tears at the slightest mishap, or come down with panic attacks. Then the doctors merrily prescribe sedatives – sleep the pain away! And slowly, the body becomes a toxic waste dump. Is precious life meant to be wasted like this?

Imagine – you have a lovely house, a Ferrari, a beachside bungalow, a flourishing business, a wonderful family and yet, fear is gnawing away at your insides. Another scenario – exam results are out and a ten-year-old jumps to his death from a rooftop, simply because he has failed. What are the values we are giving our children? Should every child not be taught how to deal with fear and anxiety? Yoga science should definitely be part of the school syllabus, and every child should be taught how to sit with the spine erect and breathe correctly – equal inhalation, equal exhalation, slow, steady, and deep. It’s fine that prayers are done in the school assembly but in all honesty, does it help them to deal with and dispel their fear? I have never met a stupid child but I have met hundreds of stupid adults! Our society teaches the child to fear. Taunting parents, threatening teachers, peer pressure, and constant comparison make life miserable for children who then resort to bribing teachers, cheating, and copying, just for grades and percentages. Thus, we teach children to become dishonest, fearful, and deceitful at a very tender age and then wonder why society is going down the drain. When a child is thus punished and tortured, the fear remains in the subconscious mind all his life. In fact, it builds up with time. The child’s budding emotions are deeply hurt. Will such a child become capable of learning, thinking well, or able to concentrate on his studies? No, in fact, this will just increase his inertia and indolence.

When medication as well as stress and depression affect the breathing, the ratio of oxygen to carbon-dioxide goes haywire. On top of it, shallow breathing adds to the problem. Correspondingly, enough oxygen does not reach all the organs. Thus when the mind is disturbed, it affects the breathing, and incorrect breathing further leads to disease and ill-health. Unconsciously, unknowingly, one tenses the body and holds the breath in times of perceived stress. This leads to trembling and weakness in the limbs, in fact, all over the body.

The fact is that these days one has to be actually taught how to breathe correctly! During inhalation, the stomach should expand, protruding a bit due to the movement of the diaphragm whereas during exhalation, the stomach should move inwards. But the majority of people do the opposite and this incorrect way of breathing actually damages health if continued over a long period of time. The solar plexus is where we tend to hold our deepest emotions, therefore it is important that the breath should flow smooth and easy in this region. Yogic breathing is full lung breathing, involving expansion of the chest and shoulder region as well as the stomach.

Now, if we have cultivated the practice of paying attention to the breath during any activity we perform, breathing starts becoming harmonious. We remain grounded in the present moment. And then, in times of crises, we remember that the breath is the tool which will stabilize both body and mind. So, breathe your depression away….!