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Ancient History

Living Like the Tortoise: Doubling Your Life Span with One Simple Breathing Technique

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Is it possible for humans to live for 200 years, or even more? It seems improbable without some kind of freakish genetic modification, but this isn’t necessary according to ancient wisdom in the Bhagavad Gita, and the Tirukkural.

Among vertebrates, the tortoise is one of the longest living animals on our planet. Unconfirmed reports talk of the tortoise living for as many as 400 years, and it is not unusual to find a tortoise like Jonathan, that is 182 years old.

How Do You Breathe?

Much of the science of yoga was gained from watching nature and her creatures. Ancient saints and sages noticed that animals with low respiratory rates, like the tortoise, but also like the elephant, and the other animals listed in the chart below lived longer life spans with a controlled, long breath. You will also notice, though, that as the speed of respiration increases, the life span of the animal shortens.

Animal Breathing rate,  breaths/min Life span,  years
Giant Tortoise 4 150
Whale 6 111
Elephant 4-5 (lying down) 70
Horse 8-15 50
Chimpanzee 14 40
Monkeys 32 18-23
Dogs 20-30 10-20

Though there are animals on our planet that live even longer, like sponges and sea clams, that can live for more than 400 years, humans are often thought to be relegated to a lifespan of around 70 years – and that’s when all key indicators of life or life force are excellent.

Poets and sages knew better. For example, in a sloka (verse) from the Bhagavad Gita we learn:

“When, like the tortoise which withdraws its limbs on all sides, he (a sage) withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, then his wisdom becomes steady” (Chapter 2-58)

Additionally, here is a couplet from Tirukkural:

“If a man learns to control his five senses in one birth as the tortoise, that power will stand by him in his seven future births.”  (Kural 126)

Part of this ‘control of the senses’ refers to the control of the breath.

Though there are many practices in yoga – from meditation to yogic postures or asana, which can help to keep the body well and vital for many years, perhaps non among the yogic practices is as important for the extension of life as learning to control the life force through pranayama.

Pranayama Defined

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that means literally life force, or an unseen energy, which runs like currents through the body ‘prana,’ and ‘ayama’ which means control, or extension of the life force. Just having an increased life force, without knowing how to control it, is rather useless, according to yogic wisdom.

It can take an entire lifetime to master all the breathing techniques or ‘control of life-force techniques’ offered through yogic science, from Samavrtti, Ujjayi, Kumbhaka, Anuloma Viloma, Kapalabhati, and Sithali, and more, but alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana also called Anuloma Viloma, has been scientifically proven to increase life span.

Here’s why:

When the respiratory rate decreases the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body. Our nervous system then calms down and takes a much-needed break, also. You can think of it like the conservation of energy in physics, or putting fewer miles on your car so it will last longer.

Furthermore, one of the absolute key indicators of life span is the resting heart rate. Alternate nostril breathing has been proven to lower the resting heart rate, and thereby expand life span – of course allowing for unexpected events like getting hit by lightening or falling from a ten story building. The natural life-span as we know it, however, does indeed increase when we practice this simple breathing technique.

These facts are corroborated by several scientific studies.

A Danish study, for example, published in Heart, suggests that a higher resting heart rate is an independent predictor of mortality — even in healthy people that are in great physical condition.

Danish researchers gave physical exams to 5,249 healthy middle-aged and elderly men beginning in 1971. In 1985 and 1986, they tracked survivors, of whom there were 3,354. Of these, 2,798 had sufficient data on heart rate and oxygen consumption for the analysis. Researchers followed them through 2011.

After controlling for physical fitness and many other health and behavioral factors, they found that the higher the resting heart rate, the greater the risk for death.

The numbers were quite telling:

Men with a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute or less compared to those with 71 to 80 beats per minute has a 51 percent greater risk of mortality. At over 90 beats per minute the risk tripled.

The lead author and researcher at Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, Dr. Magnus Thorsten Jensen explains:

“If you have two healthy people, exactly the same in physical fitness, age, blood pressure and so on, the person with the highest resting heart rate is more likely to have a shorter life span.”

That’s where pranayama comes in, and specifically alternate nostril breathing.

Not only does this breathing practice “increase cardiac autonomous modulation” (a long-winded way of saying, help out the heart and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) but it also lowers the resting heart rate. It gives profound rest to the entire physical and energetic system, while also invigorating it.

How to Practice Nadi Shodhana

  1. Sit comfortably with your spine erect and shoulders relaxed. If you can, sit unassisted, but the most important thing is to keep your spine long so the energy you create through your breath can move up and down your spinal column, called the sushumna in yoga. It may help to do some simple yoga asana before sitting to breathe. Swamij.com has a great lesson on the sushumna for those who want to learn more.
  2. Place your left hand on the left knee, palms open to the sky or in Chin Mudra (thumb and index finger gently touching at the tips).
  3. Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. The last two fingers (ring finger and little finger) are used to open or close the left nostril and thumb for the right nostril throughout the practice.
  4. Press your thumb against the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril.
  5. Now breathe in from the left nostril and then press the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right.
  6. Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. You have now completed one round of Nadi Shodhan pranayama. Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils.
  7. Complete as many rounds as you can by alternately breathing through both the nostrils. After every exhalation, remember to breathe in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed throughout and continue taking long, deep, smooth breaths without any force or effort. I find it helpful to envision I am breathing in the shape of a rainbow to make the in-breath and out-breath consistent.

You can also watch this video on how to practice Alternate Nostril Breathing – and start enjoying a longer life.

Featured image: Galápagos giant tortoise (Geochelone nigra). Photo: M Kegl/Azote

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Ancient History

6 Year Old Finds Fossil In Family Garden That May be 488 Million Years Old

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Children have a natural fascination with rocks, with many of us having spent some days as children standing awe-struck at our museums or science centers looking at dazzling arrays of stones, or learning about the different types that can be found out our local beaches, parks, or hiking trails.

However, none of us managed to make the sort of discovery that one young boy in the U.K. did.

Siddak Singh Jhamat, known as Sid, found a fossil in his garden that dates back millions of years.

Sid found the fossil in his backyard garden in the town of Walsall using a simple fossil-hunting kit he received as a gift, reports the BBC.

His father Vish Singh was then able to identify the fossil as a horn corral that dates back 251 to 488 million years with the help of a Facebook fossil group.

“I was just digging for worms and things like pottery and bricks and I just came across this rock which looked a bit like a horn, and thought it could be a tooth or a claw or a horn, but it was actually a piece of coral which is called horn coral,” Sid explained.

“I was really excited about what it really was.”

His father Vish added:

“We were surprised he found something so odd-shaped in the soil… he found a horn coral, and some smaller pieces next to it, then the next day he went digging again and found a congealed block of sand.

“In that there were loads of little molluscs and sea shells, and something called a crinoid, which is like a tentacle of a squid, so it’s quite a prehistoric thing.”

The father believes that the distinctive markings on the fossil make it a Rugosa coral, meaning it could be up to 488 million years old.

“The period that they existed from was between 500 and 251 million years ago, the Paleozoic Era,” Vish said.

“England at the time was part of Pangea, a landmass of continents. England was all underwater as well… that’s quite significant expanse of time.”

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Ancient History

Researchers Find 50,000-Year-Old Frozen Body of Extinct Woolly Rhino in Siberia

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Researchers in Siberia have stumbled upon the 50,000 year-old remains of a rare woolly rhinoceros that was trapped in permafrost.

The remains of the woolly rhino were excavated from the Abyisky district of the Sakha Republic. The rhino was first discovered by a local in Siberia named Alexei Savin, Business Insider reported.

Savvin stumbled upon the remarkable find walking near the Tirekhtyakh River in Yakutia, Siberia last August.

It’s worth noting that this woolly rhino was found close to the site where a previous baby woolly rhino named Sasha was discovered back in the year 2014. Woolly Rhinos were once believed to have been prevalent in Europe, Russia and northern Asia thousands upon thousands of years ago until they ended up extinct.

Paleontologist Albert Protopopov of the Academy of Sciences of the Sakha Republic unveiled that the baby woolly rhino would have been approximately three to four years old when it died presumably from drowning.

The only other woolly rhino thus far that has been discovered in these regions — Sasha — was dated to be from around 34,000 years ago. However, Protopopov suggests that the newly discovered body could be anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 years old.

However, despite the body being there for so long according to Protopopov “among other things, part of the internal organs are preserved, which in the future will make it possible to study in more detail how the species ate and lived.”

Protopopov further added, “Earlier, not even the bone remains of individuals of this age were found, not to mention the preserved carcasses of animals. As a rule, these were either cubs or adults.”

A fellow paleontologist Valery Plotnikov from the Academy of Sciences further adds, “We have learned that woolly rhinoceroses were covered in very thick hair. Previously, we could judge this only from rock paintings discovered in France. Now, judging by the thick coat with the undercoat, we can conclude that the rhinoceroses were fully adapted to the cold climate very much from a young age.”

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Ancient History

Isaac Newton’s Secret “Burnt” Notes Included Theory That Great Pyramids Predicted Apocalypse

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Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most famous scientists of recorded history, left behind a large body of work that is still vital in our understanding of the world today. However, as with many public intellectuals, he also had plenty of work that was never shared with the public, even after his death.

Now, for the first time ever, some of these unpublished notes are being auctioned off, and these notes contain some of his most wild theories, and includes his thoughts on the occult, alchemy, and biblical apocalypse theory. Newton was known to dabble in the more esoteric realms of study, but very little written evidence remains about his specific thoughts on mystical topics.

Some of the remaining manuscript notes are currently being auctioned by Sotheby’s. The notes have been through a lot, and are obviously burned. The auctioneers claim that the notes were damaged in a fire that is believed to have been started by a candle that was accidentally toppled by Newton’s dog, Diamond.

According to the auction listing, “These notes are part of Newton’s astonishingly complex web of interlinking studies – natural philosophy, alchemy, theology – only parts of which he ever believed were appropriate for publication. It is not surprising that he did not publish on alchemy, since secrecy was a widely-held tenet of alchemical research, and Newton’s theological beliefs, if made public, would have cost him (at least) his career.”

The notes currently have a leading bid of £280,000, the equivalent of about $375,000.

In the notes, Newton speaks on some far-out topics that would surprise modern thinkers. For example, Newton’s notes include a theory that ancient Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza predicted the apocalypse. While it is unclear what logic he used to get to his conclusion, the theory began with his study of how the pyramids were designed according to an ancient Egyptian unit of measurement called the royal cubit.

While studying the pyramids and the cubit, Newton believed he developed an insight into sacred geometry, which somehow aligned with the apocalypse predictions in the bible.

“He was trying to find proof for his theory of gravitation, but in addition the ancient Egyptians were thought to have held the secrets of alchemy that have since been lost. Today, these seem disparate areas of study – but they didn’t seem that way to Newton in the 17th century,” Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s manuscript specialist, told The Guardian.

“It’s a wonderful confluence of bringing together Newton and these great objects from classical antiquity which have fascinated people for thousands of years. The papers take you remarkably quickly straight to the heart of a number of the deepest questions Newton was investigating,” Heaton added.

Interest in alchemy and mysticism was not unusual for serious scholars at the time, in fact, it was recognized as a legitimate field of scientific study.

“The idea of science being an alternative to religion is a modern set of thoughts. Newton would not have believed that his scientific work could undermine religious belief. He was not trying to disprove Christianity – this is a man who spent a long time trying to establish the likely time period for the biblical apocalypse. That’s why he was so interested in the pyramids,” Heaton said.

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