Be Well

Breath: Your greatest tool for well-being

with Dr Marian Alonzo, The Farm at San Benito

Breathing is the most natural thing: we breathe in, and breathe out, and one would think that we can’t possibly go wrong with this. Well, guess what: there actually is a right and wrong way to get oxygen into your system through your lungs. The great sages of ancient India clearly understood that with the correct form, the breath not only fuels your body but also helps clear a foggy mind, and improve emotional and physical well-being. They had recognized the difficulty in controlling the fluctuations of the mind a long time ago. And they realized that by controlling the ‘prana’ that manifests through the air we breathe, the mind is automatically controlled.

Pranayama (‘prana’ means life force and ‘yama’ - to gain control) is the ancient practice of controlling your breath. You control the timing, duration, and frequency of every breath and hold. It was established way back then that the mind and the breath exert an influence on each other. Try it for yourself, you will notice that when the mind is restless, the breath feels short and rapid; and when the breath becomes deep and slow, the mind calms down. The ultimate goal of pranayama is to connect your body and mind.

“All healing traditions emphasize the value of breathing.  With every breath, is the possibility of something new.  Exhale, creating space within us so that when we inhale, the fresh can take residence in this space.  This space is the vessel for that seed of the grander version of the future you want to step into. Without this precious space, that desire is just a wafting thought.

The breath is sacred.  Life is encompassed by the breath.  And when we breathe in a mood of reverence, the level of aliveness, the quality of life is elevated.” Says Dr. Marian Alonzo, Medical Chief, The Farm at San Benito.

But we are so engrossed in the humdrum of regular life, that we slip into an unconscious pattern of breathing, which is not necessarily beneficial for us. Dr Marian continues, “In the pursuit of acquiring more and more, we either tend to hold our breath or take in shallow breaths without first creating the space. Thus, the uncomfortable feeling expressed by stressed individuals, “I’m up to my neck!”  Anxiety results from the act of trying to hold it all in and in that consistent effort of avoiding losing one’s composure, one either develops anxiety disorder or breaks down or gets burnt out. Hoarding or over-shopping is dismissed as simply a behavioural peculiarity. It’s actually a subconscious need to fill what’s lacking, yet ironically, what’s lacking is quality space, breathing space”.

In our increasingly busy world, we have learned to demonize ‘stress’, when actually stress is not bad, by itself. Stress came into existence as a tool for us to reach a better version of ourselves, to challenge us, and in the process, to strengthen us.  We all agree that exercise is beneficial to humans.  Yet, the very definition of exercise includes stress as a key component.  Exercise is the introduction of incremental stress to the body done regularly.  Take note of the operative words, ‘regular’ and ‘incremental’. Engaging in physical activity without follow-up is not exercise.

So, when your doctor prescribes exercise in your health regimen; it’s just another way of saying… breathe!

In essence, breathing is crucial in keeping us in sync with our biological rhythm. Quality rest and sleep are ways to replenish us. Cellular repair happens during sleep and in states of deep relaxation. But ironically, we feel we can get more things done by foregoing both sleep and rest. See the irony from where all the concerns stem?

Not honouring this life-giving rhythm of inhale and exhale leads to all sorts of illnesses related to rhythm disorder such as sleep concerns, constipation, and related digestive disorders, menstrual problems which may include fertility and female reproductive diseases. Men are not spared as those with prostate enlargement commonly seen in advanced age do not only get deprived of quality sleep but their frequent and unfulfilled trips to the loo throughout the day and night affect the quality of life. All these then affect the hormones which create a deeper health impact.

‘Merging modern medicine and ancient streams of healing, chronomedicine as a science invokes the healing power of rhythm through the breath, and that is what our Breathe! Programme at The Farm is all about,” adds Dr. Marian.

The Farm at San Benito is the perfect place for one to find their inner self and learn to synchronize one’s mind and breathing. The Farm offers a 5-day Pranayama program which starts with a mild detoxification to prepare one’s mind and body to engage in pranayama. Throughout the programme, guests are served nutritious organic vegetables that are freshly picked from The Farm’s organic garden to make sure that the nutrients and enzymes are present when served, as food directly affects one’s energy. Vegetarianism has been shown to promote inner calmness and harmony between the body and mind. The body is further prepared through a gentle cleansing colema that eliminates wastes that are a source of toxins if not eliminated properly. These are combined with other modalities such as acupuncture and guided meditation that are medically supervised and aimed at clearing the mind and creating a state of harmony. Each day guests are given relaxation massages that help release muscle tension and put their minds in a restful state. These are all done in preparation for your session with The Farm’s experienced Yogi who will guide you through your classes as you learn to access your mind and learn pranayama through proper breathing.

The benefits of a regulated practice of simple, deep yogic breathing are immense:

- Muscle Relaxation

Increase in energy levels

Reduced anxiety, depression and stress

Lower/stabilized blood pressure and many more benefits to the mind, body and spirit.

Even if you don’t have much time to dedicate to the practice, you can start by taking long, slow, and deep breaths in and out through the nose. Try to extend your inhalations and exhalations, observing your belly expand when you breathe in and collapse when you breathe outSit still with this rhythm and aim to at least do 5-10 such breath cycles. This method works to combine the calming effect of breathing with an active lifestyle.

When you get comfortable with the in and out breaths, begin to pay attention to the space between the breaths, the retention.

Breathing is life, it's the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing when we depart. However, it’s those moments in between which are timelessness, and that is the true essence of life.