The breath is the most vital process of the body. Not only does it influence the activity of each cell, but it is intimately connected with the performance of the brain. Research has shown that practicing pranayama (breath regulation or breath control) can enhance the quality of life and decrease the effects of aging. Deeper breathing and breath regulation can help to lower our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and therefore reduce oxidative stress on our cells.
Our longevity is also directly linked to the way we breathe. For example, animals with a slow breath rate, such as elephants and tortoises have a longer lifespan, whereas animals with a rapid breathing rate, such as birds, dogs, and rabbits, live only for a few years. Slow breathing is, therefore, a positive way to increase a human’s lifespan, since respiration is directly linked to the heart. A slow breath rate nourishes the heart, increasing the absorption of oxygen by the tissues and organs, and helping to revitalize and boost the health of our heart.
However, most people don’t use their breath to its full potential, and only use a small part of their lung capacity, depriving the body of oxygen and disrupting the rhythm of the brain. The correct way to breathe, also known as yogic breathing or pranayama, is to inhale slowly and deeply, allowing the abdomen to fully expand. At the end of abdominal inhalation, inhale further, pushing the chest outward and upward. This completes one inhalation. On the exhalation, allow the chest to move downwards and inwards, then begin to empty the lungs as much as possible. This completes one round of yogic breathing. There are many different types of pranayama that you can learn, each one working to control the breath and maximize its potential. The effects of breathwork are instantly noticeable, and you might start to feel calmer, more relaxed, more centered and clearer minded.
Essential oils can also be used to help you breathe better, for example, Frankincense oil, which has been shown to relieve asthma symptoms, such as shortness of breath and wheezing. It can even help support a healthy immune and nervous system, as well as decreasing the frequency of headaches and migraines. Simply put few drops into a diffuser and breathe in deeply while practicing pranayama, or place a few drops on a damp, warm cloth and inhale deeply.
As well as breathing, the face and body are hugely beneficial in keeping aging at bay. Oils like Castor Oil are especially nourishing, as they contain vitamin E, protein and Omega 6 fatty acids that help boost the production of collagen in the skin, as well as protecting the delicate skin barrier. If you suffer from dry skin, fine lines or wrinkles, Argan Oil - also known as liquid gold - contains high levels of fatty acids and antioxidants, that will help reduce inflammation and stimulate new cell growth. It’s also packed with Vitamin E, an antioxidant that boosts cell production in the skin and protects against free radical damage, which causes premature aging and inflammation.
Combining pranayama breathwork with proper moisturizing of the skin can, therefore, work wonders to help slow down the aging process, increase longevity and decrease stress levels.
Daily Rituals to adopt:
Start off with a simple pranayama practice, and work your way up, exploring the more advanced practices as you become more comfortable. Massage nourishing oils like Argan and Castor Oil on to your skin daily, as well as using essential oils to help support your immune system and breathing, and you’ll be well on your way to a youthful, healthy body and mind.