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Did primitive man ever wonder - ‘How to Breathe Right?’

Life is the period between one breath and the next; a person who only half breathes, only half lives. He, who breathes correctly, acquires control of the whole being. - Hatha Yoga Pradipika The first question I ask during the commencement of my any corporate session, “What is the movement of your abdomen when you breathe in and out?” Utter confusion prevails. It seems like a redundant question which should have never been asked in the first place. After all, breathing is a natural process; it happens automatically; why should one even think about it. I refuse to proceed further without an answer and that is when the participants take a few seconds to reconnect with themselves (probably after ages) to figure out what the answer to my question is. The responses are of a confused nature.  In fact, many of them, who do manage to answer correctly, are not too sure whether the answer is right.  This is a common story.


Yoga / Wellness / Pranayama / Mental Health etc. workshop is pretty common today.  With an increasing popularity of Yoga, these workshops seem to have come into the main stream as a prerequisite for an integrated development of one’s personality. This makes me wonder: “If the primitive man too had such sessions?” “Did they, too, attend such workshops to figure out “The Art of Right Breathing?” Or did any such thought exist in the farthest corner of their minds.  If not? Why not? After all, they were definitely the healthier bunch than today’s population.  Then, how could they miss such an integral part of yogic practice.

A Peek into Primitive Life Style“Primitive Population lived in rhythm with nature. Breathing, itself, being a natural process, managed to maintain its natural rhythm as its consumer was in perfect sync with nature.” Primitive man did not focus much on the physical aspect or the breathing aspect of Yoga as it naturally made a part of their day to day living with lot of physical activity. Our ancestors ate what nature provided them – the seasonal produce, they worked how nature intended them to work, they slept when it was required, they woke up when they were supposed to. Hence, their sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system worked in equilibrium with nature and continued to do so on a daily basis.  They activated their correct deep breathing automatically because they took cold water bath in the mornings, walked and worked briskly in the cold weather. The natural rhythm of their life, in equilibrium with nature, had automatically raised them onto a higher level where the prerequisites of getting into a yogic life were automatically met. They mostly focused on meditation – the higher level of yogic practice.

Today’s Lifestyle “We have lost touch with nature and with ourselves. That is probably the reason we have to spend energy and money on learning something which we were naturally born with.” In stark contrast, today’s generation love to maintain the basic comfort around them. One has to take a hot water bath even during hot summers, live in air conditioned environment all day long whether it is summer or winter; eat unseasonal fruits and fruits from all over the world and this too, all year around - the purpose being sensory gratification. In fact, I believe, our future generation will  have a tough time identifying seasonal  fruits and vegetables  as everything is available everywhere throughout the year defying the concept of season. More than half of the population in urban areas has rarely woken up to welcome sunrise; sunset marks the beginning of the day for many of them, where instead of getting into ‘a switch off mode’, they begin on switch on mode, thereby, activating their brain cells by watching movies, partying, drinking and eating heavy meals etc. as a way of enjoying life with friends and family. Unfortunately, this is complete opposite of what nature intends us to do. Such practices may not show an immediate impact but is slowly damaging us internally. The pressure of maintaining this demanding and competitive life style (which is associated with lot of negative emotions – fear, hatred, jealousy, ill thinking etc. & hormonal imbalance) has resulted in us failing to utilize our respiratory system to its fullest. This, in turn, has turned us into shallow breathers, living in scarcity of life giving vital forces i.e. breath. With our current lifestyle, we have imposed unimaginable load on our natural body systems – be it respiratory, digestive, circulatory or excretory. The ‘against the nature’ lifestyle is failing to sync with the natural rhythm of life,  to the extent, that we need to participate in different workshops even to learn “The Art of Right Breathing”, which we are naturally born with. Also refer to the following blog on Yogic Breathing. For any query, write to “Ask Shammi” on For other blogs on related subject, check

Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.

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