Elephants and ants can teach us that we can reserve our energy by slowing our breath, or we can use it up and work ourselves to death. It’s a beautifully simple lesson about the economy of energy.
Paramahansa Yogandanda, for instance, the same yogi who taught the Beatles and who wrote An Autobiography of a Yogi, said this about breathing and life spans:
“The restless monkey breathes at the rate of 32 times a minute, in contrast to man’s average 18 times. The elephant, tortoise, snake and other animals noted for their longevity have a respiratory rate which is less than man’s. The tortoise for instance, who may attain the age of 300 years, breathes only 4 times per minute.”
The Vedic culture taught the Brahmins that the faster we breathe, the faster we die. Think of money. We can either spend frivolously, emptying our bank accounts, or we can budget, enjoying our funds throughout our lives. In the same way, when we practice pranayama techniques that lengthen the cycle of the breath and slow the resting heart rate, we can extend our life span.
What the Tortoise Can Teach Us
A 300-year-old tortoise breathes a mere three or four times per minute, while an average human breathes at least 15 times per minute.
Among some of the only land vertebrates that can live this old, there is much to learn from them. They expend energy to get food, procreate, or move out of the sun, but only when they absolutely need to. In order to reduce the sensory stimulation that it must process, the tortoise withdraws sensory organs, like the hands and feet, into the shell frequently.
Think of how we waste our energy. The yogic tradition encourages Ujjayi breathing, or ocean’s breath, to provide a balancing influence on the entire cardiorespiratory system, release feelings of irritation and frustration, and help calm the mind and body. The breath is slow and deliberate, and is more like that of elephants than of dogs. We know that the big and slow elephant is known to outlast the fast and hard-working yet tiny ant. This leads us to the assumption that energy expenditure, rather than size, predicts longevity.
Source – CE