What your Breath Has to do with Stress

Breathe through Stress

Our breathing pattern is our Life, it can never lie, for it reveals the secrets of our mind and beyond. —Paramahamsa Nithyananda

Have you wondered what your breath has to do with stress? Paramahamsa Nithyananda, an enlightened Master from South India, gives us an analogy of the human body being like a desert filled with sand. Any air movement which happens in the body is similar to the air movement in the desert, where the dust is lifted and the air becomes dusty, full of sand. The ordinary body is filled with so many thought trends or what he refers to as “bio-memory” that breathing by its very nature awakens too many thoughts and makes a person restless and stressed. The breath is therefore a stimulator and an indicator of the activity of the mind.

Have you ever experienced high stress and a quiet mind together? It just does not happen.

What Stress Has to do with Thoughts

Very simply, more thoughts equals more mind activity equals more stress. Less thoughts equals less mind activity equals less stress. The length, breadth, and depth of the breath correspond directly to the number of thoughts experienced. The nature of the mind is to wander from one thought to the next. The mind oscillates between thoughts from the past or the future, bringing with immense stress due to regrets from the past or anxiety about what the future is going to be. This oscillation and stress keeps us tired and distanced from feeling fulfilled and enjoying the present moment to the fullest.

Emotions Affect Breath

It turns out the breath is affected by every emotion as well. It shortens, or lengthens,  becomes shallower or deeper automatically as emotions arise. Knowing this, we can play with the breath to shift the emotions, release emotions, reduce mind activity and even generate peace and tranquility. With long slow deep breaths, the number of thoughts is reduced. And the mind experiences rest.

Pranayama: Play with Breath

Paramahamsa Nithyananda is a master of breath techniques. He shares techniques here that not only reduce stress, but also access states of higher consciousness.  Through various practices involving breath, he gives us a way to shift from stress to complete peace. This playing with the breath to affect consciousness has been studied in the Vedic tradition for thousands of years and is called Pranayama. Human beings as such cannot work directly on the mind; it can only be touched through the breath. Breath is the bridge between the individual and the Universe. It is the bridge between the body and the mind. It is only when the breath happens that mind happens.

More on the Science of Pranayama: Prana, the life force is independent of breathing.

The practice of breathing without thoughts being awakened is called the science of pranayama. The word ‘prana’ in Sanskrit; means the source of life, the life force or the energy which is the basis for existence. ‘Prana’ is a kind of vibration which goes inside along with the breath. This vibration stays inside and continues to add more vibrations or frequency to the life energy. Even when one feels that the breathing has become very shallow or has almost stopped during deep meditation, prana continues to go in and come out. Prana, the life force is independent of breathing.

Why are we tired & restless when stressed?

Along with the air movement if thoughts are also awakened, a person is not inhaling pure prana, the life energy. When there are more thoughts, the breath will carry lesser life energy inside, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, most of the time one takes in too much air without much prana flow inside. If one feels that they have everything in the outer world and yet, there is no fulfillment, it simply means that one’s breathing is not fulfilled, the breath is not filled with prana! Dissatisfaction, tiredness and boredom with life prevails. It follows that when one is able to fulfill one’s breathing, one will be fulfilled in spite of complexities in the outer world.

Breathe Deep to De-Stress


Let us try a breathing exercise. Observe what happens to the mind as it focuses on just breathing. This inhaling and exhaling breathing technique will instantly help you remove the stress.


Mouth breathing is an instant way to de-stress. Sit comfortably in a chair with the head resting over the back of the chair. Let the face be turned upward as much as possible without discomfort. Close your eyes and slowly relax your facial muscles. Release the lower jaw, relax it so that the mouth opens a little. Now start breathing through your mouth in a natural manner.

Inhale and exhale both through the mouth. The first few times you do this, you may find the breathing becoming faster. Don’t worry. After some time, it will slow down on its own. The breath will go in and out very slowly. In fact, it will become so shallow that you can hardly feel your own breathing. Continue till you feel totally relaxed and refreshed. Do this as many times as you would like to.

When the mind focuses on just breathing, it becomes still and silent. All thoughts and worries that have you feeling stressed will simply melt away! You will feel completely relaxed and refreshed.

Why Does the Stress Melt Away?

Rejuvenating life force in every breath reduces the number of thoughts, as thoughts reduce, the stress melts away! During meditation, air going in and coming out may reduce but the prana going in and settling increases and this is the main reason why meditation rejuvenates a person as the number of thoughts are reduced, why stress and worry melt away. You can  experience moving deeper and deeper into our innermost silence, a silence which is vibrant and alive. You can experience peace and fulfilment as your true nature.

Know you can reduce your thoughts with breath,

Know that Prana rejuvenates by reducing the number of thoughts,

Know you can be stress free

Altering breathing patterns is very powerful, empowering tool that can reduce the number of thoughts. The science of Pranayama can take you back towards your centre, the space between two thoughts, a calm, blissful, sweet space of fulfilment and freedom from stress.

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