I would like to refer to Patanjali’s yoga sutra and its eight fold path to the inner world: yama (ethical behavior), niyama (personal observations), asana (stable posture), pranayama (conscious breathing as opposed to autonomic), pratyahara (inward direction of perceptive senses), dharna (settling on an object or subject), dhyana (focusing attention on it), samadhi (maintenance of uninterrupted focus). First five components of this eightfold path are external in nature and the last three are internal perhaps because of the intimate coupling of the external with the internal.
Conscious establishment of a natural breathing cycle is helpful in inward direction of perceptive senses. In addition, its maintenance is essential to avoid distraction during focus because change in breath pattern accompanies change in the pattern of thought.
Some say that the physical realm is only one percent of our reality, but we are embodied beings and our body is an important tool that we have for our outer well as inner endeavors. If we can’t keep it stable in one place, how far shall we get on our inner journey?
True that to be truly aware of the inner worlds is to daily die or to make our self extinct. But this extinction is of the carnal self, of the ego, of our desires, our wants, our aversions, our likes and dislikes, our fears, our sense of helplessness and limitations in facing their ferocity. All these result from our sense of identity with the body. Daily dying implies uprooting our sense of identity from the body and rooting it on the inner reality. Here again conscious breathing comes to our help by an inner alignment of our physical expectations etc. with our reality. Let us examine how that happens.
Awareness of the gap between our physical expectation and the reality we face creates physical and mental stress which prevents spiritual insight. It is a matter of simple observation to note that conscious breathing reduces stress both physically and mentally. Reduction of stress thus removes us from the awareness of the gap between our physical reality and our expectation. That is what I understand as death of the carnal ego. When the ego self is dead and extinct, then only we are truly aware of the inner worlds. Conscious breathing helps in transcending the ego by redirecting our awareness from the gap between our physical expectations and reality to the inner worlds opening us to spiritual insights.