Breath Is Life Itself

Healing & Meditation

Anam explains the utter importance of right breathing and its effect on the body.

Breath is the universal factor of life. We are born – and the first thing we do is to inhale, and when we die, the last thing we do is to exhale. Breath is life itself. Osho says,

“Breath and life have become synonymous. Breathing is the mechanism of life, and life is deeply related with breathing. That is why in India we call it prana. We have given one word for both – prana means the vitality, the aliveness. Your life is your breath.

“Your breath is a bridge between you and your body. Constantly, breath is bridging you to your body, connecting you, relating you to your body. Not only is the breath a bridge to your body, it is also a bridge between you and the universe. The body is just the universe which has come to you, which is nearer to you.”  1)

Breathing is only one process that delivers oxygen to where it is needed in the body and removes carbon dioxide. Another important process involves the movement of blood by the circulatory system.

bird singing

All that lives, breathes – even plants and bacteria. The process of breath is identical in all, consisting of inhalation and exhalation. This forms the text of the Incredible String Band’s song, Air:

Breathing, all creatures are
Brighter then than brightest star
You are by far
You come right inside of me
Close as you can be

Ancients commonly linked the breath to a life force. The Hebrew Bible refers to God breathing the breath of life into clay to make Adam a living soul. It also refers to the breath as returning to God when a mortal dies. The terms ‘spirit’, ‘Qi’ and ‘psyche’ are related to the concept of breath.

Breath is literally the bridge connecting all of these aspects of our being and our existence. It can become blocked and the effects that it can have work against our sense of aliveness and well-being. By breathing less fully into life, we are able to avoid, to a greater or lesser extent, the uncomfortable feelings and emotions. It is also a way of continually suppressing these sensations and thus, via classical conditioning, these inhibitions become habitual.

…breath is intimately
linked with our emotional
state of being.

The problem here is two-fold. By decreasing our oxygen intake we reduce the supply of oxygen to the brain and body, which then reduces its ability to function and has been shown to lead to a variety of psycho-physiological issues. It also means that, rather than processing the issues we have in our day-to-day life, they are suppressed and stored in our subconscious. These stored issues, as well as taking a large amount of energy to suppress, condition how we experience our reality. If the issue involved physical danger, then by storing this, we can believe that the world is a dangerous place and we will thus attract or interpret events via this belief and repeatedly prove it to be so.

Many of our beliefs and behavioural patterns come from our formative years. During this time, we are like a sponge, soaking up impressions and making conclusions about life. However, these conclusions are not always accurate, particularly if based upon extreme, traumatic events.

We have suppressed these issues so well and become so accustomed to our way of experiencing life, and indeed of breathing, that we are generally unaware of this cause and effect relationship; usually we only see the results. It is therefore imperative, if we wish to evolve physically, mentally and spiritually, that we release our breathing inhibitions and all of the emotional baggage that we have inside so we can experience life and its wonders with eyes unconditioned by fear.

…breath is the natural
and logical basis
for meditation…

It is known that breath is intimately linked with our emotional state of being. Through healing modalities such as breath work it is now known that breath has the power to access our subconscious and all of the traumas and behavioural patterns stored within. It also has the power to transform and release these issues.

There are few people in the world who know how to effectively deal with emotional issues. Nearly all of us use one means or another to suppress such feelings, be it ice cream or chocolate, sex, drugs or alcohol. This avoidance is known to cause anxiety and depression as well as increased sympathetic arousal, which then holds the body in a constant and chronic state of stress. Coupled with these issues is breathing inhibition. Osho says,

“Breathing and thinking are deeply connected, as if they are two poles of one thing. You also sometimes become aware, if you are a little mindful, that whenever the mind changes, the breathing changes. For example, you are angry: immediately the breathing changes, the rhythm is gone. The breathing has a different quality. It is non-rhythmic.

“When you have passion, lust, sex takes over, the breathing changes; it becomes feverish, mad. When you are silent, just not doing anything, just feeling very relaxed, the breathing has a different rhythm.” 2)

Breath is the most immaterial factor of our existence, being a link-manifestation of the mind/spirit that dwells in all. For this reason, breath is the natural and logical basis for meditation, the attempt to “enter into life.” Breath is the key to the cultivation of pure consciousness, it directly influences our physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual states. Inhibited breathing, which is sadly common, negatively affects these states.

Meditation on the breath is found in the spiritual practices of many religions, particularly in Buddhism, where it is known as anapanasati, awareness of the inhaling and exhaling breaths, and is the meditation technique practiced and taught by Gautama the Buddha.

There are many techniques for relaxation on the market. A common theme with them all is that they relax the breath, leading to deeper, rhythmic breathing. Anyone who has done any kind of meditation or breathing exercises will know how peaceful and blissful deep rhythmic breathing can be. A simple example of this effect would be listening to classical music. The soothing tones quickly change our breathing. If you pay attention, you will notice that you will be breathing in a more relaxed, deeper way. Therefore, rather than bothering with various different rituals for relaxation it is simpler to go straight to the breath and consciously cultivate peace and bliss.

The first step in healthy breathing is to become conscious of how we actually breathe. From the perspective of the world’s great spiritual traditions, our breath not only brings needed oxygen and other gases to the physical body, but it can also bring, when we are conscious of it, the finer energies (prana, chi, and so on) needed to help nourish our higher bodies – the subtle body, causal body, and so on. Whatever we may believe about our soul and spirit, our breath, and how we breathe, is intimately connected with all aspects of our being. Breathing is one of the few bodily functions, which, within limits, can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously.

For example, in times of shock, to breathe consciously with the emphasis on exhalation expels the negative impact of the shock with the breath. It is often the case that the breath is held or swallowed when we go into shock and gasp. Through the exhalation the circulation of energy is restored into a flow with the inhalation, so that a state of harmony can be restored within the body, which brings us back to our senses. It is as simple as breathing.

The breath can also be used consciously to energise and cleanse the human body, such as with the technique known as ‘The Breath of Fire’. The movement of the abdominal muscles powers this technique. The expansion and contraction of the muscles then expand and contract with each breath until a rhythm is felt and that rhythm takes over. It can be compared to the sound of an old engine chugging into gear again moving forward effortlessly, after some steam has been built up.

“A child breathes naturally, and of course breathes more prana in, more chi in, and accumulates it in his belly. The belly is the accumulating place, the reservoir. Watch a child; that is the right way to breathe. When a child breathes, his chest is completely unaffected. His belly goes up and down. He breathes as if from the belly. All children have a little belly; that belly is there because of their breathing and the reservoir of energy.

“That is the right way to breathe; remember not to use your chest too much. Sometimes it can be used – in emergency periods. You are running to save your life; then the chest can be used. It is an emergency device. Then you can use shallow, fast breathing, and run. But ordinarily the chest should not be used.

“And one thing to be remembered: the chest is meant only for emergency situations because it is difficult in an emergency situation to breathe naturally, because if you breathe naturally you remain so calm and quiet you cannot run, you cannot fight. You are so calm and collected you are Buddhalike.” 3)


Source of Osho’s quotes:
1) Osho, Vigyan Bhairav Tantra Vol. 1, Ch 3
2) Osho, Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega Vol. 2, Ch 9
3) Osho, Yoga: The Alpha and the Omega Vol. 9, Ch 1

The translation of this article was previously published in the German Osho Times –


AnamAnam was initiated into sannyas in London in 1973 while just starting his Therapist Training. After its completion, in 1975, he came to Pune and became one of the first of Osho’s therapists, leading Primal Therapy groups in the ashram. He made his home there for the next six years and later moved to the Ranch in Oregon. He currently lives in Hamburg, Germany, where he runs a consulting company with his wife, Martina. Anam is a regular contributor of articles in the German OTI.

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