Breathing Easy – Pranayam and Pollution in Cities

How to pursue spirituality when each breath is a struggle? Sadhguru explains, wherever your life happens best, that’s where you should be. Don’t worry, the city will not collapse without you!
Breathing Easy – Pranayam and Pollution in Cities

Q: I suffer from asthma, nose polyps and sinus. These are causing obstacles for my spiritual pursuit. What can I do?

Sadhguru: If your body becomes a problem, then it will take your entire life's focus. When you have an asthmatic attack and you cannot breathe, nothing else matters, you just want to breathe. This is so with anything, whether it is pain or any kind of disease. If the body is not taken care of properly, it will draw your entire attention. Everything that you have will go towards maintaining it.

Keeping this body well is not about beauty or flaunting it in front of someone else. It is just so that this body does not become an obstacle in your life. This should be a stepping stone. If this becomes an obstacle, it is a big obstacle to surmount. It is not that you cannot be spiritual if you are asthmatic, but it takes a lot more. At the same time, it is a good reminder of what troubles the body can bring. So when asthma is still there, you must realize in some way that this is the nature of the body – if not today, tomorrow it is going to give you trouble. Once you realize this, the longing to transcend it also becomes very big.

In the city or out?

Of course, we want a solution for the asthma. If you were staying at the ashram, there are things that you can do which will fix it in maybe a few months. But if you are living in a city, most Indian cities are asthma. If you are in Delhi, this is the only place where you can see the air! If you already have a health problem, a city is not the place for you. It is time to move at least to the countryside. “Oh, but what do I do? I have a job.” What do you do with a job if you are wheezing morning and evening? A little less money in the village but breathing well is better in my opinion.

You must do your life where it happens best for you, not because you can live better than somebody somewhere or because you will make a few bucks more somewhere else.

You will see, if you live in a place where there is fresh air, twenty-five to thirty percent of your asthma will go down. Once we remove the problem on the outside, handling the problem inside becomes a possibility. If we do not take away what aggravates this and try to work with it, for example if you do pranayam in a seriously polluted place, you are asking for more trouble.

If you move away from the city, your city is not going to collapse. So you do not have to worry about the city.  But your problem is, you are in a race and you do not want to give up the race. Suppose somebody else wins? If you are asthmatic, anyway they are going to win the race! At least breathing easy must happen, if nothing else. Just inhalation and exhalation – at least this much pleasure every human being deserves. But unfortunately, this is happening in all major cities – it is hard to breathe.

The millions of people who live in cities have not gathered in one place because they have fallen in love with each other. It is just greed, the stock market is there, industry is there, something else is there. The world can run without you. If you are having difficulty breathing in a city, it is good to move out. “Oh, what is Sadhguru talking? Does he know what all we are doing in the city?” You are doing so many things except life, that much I know.

Many years ago, when we first wanted to set up the Isha Yoga Center in India, we looked all over southern India for land. Then we decided it had to be in Coimbatore, and we started looking all over Coimbatore. They showed me all kinds of places, some of them almost inside Coimbatore city. It would have been so much easier to build the Center there, and it would have become so much more popular if it had been in the city. When I finally got drawn to the Velliangiri foothills and said, “this is it," people said, "This is crazy. Who is going to come to this place?" I said, "It is okay but this is where we need to set this up." They thought I had lost my mind and some of them left. Now they desperately want to come, of course.

You must do your life where it happens best for you, not because you can live better than somebody somewhere or because you will make a few bucks more somewhere else. Just because we like the mountain, we cannot take a coconut tree and plant it on top of the mountain. It will not survive. A coconut tree has to be at the foothills. But the bamboo is up there because every life flourishes best when the atmosphere that is needed for that life is there. For human life, you need some oxygen to breathe, not carbon. If you understand that, then you can fix this. If you take away the outside problem, we can easily help you out of the inside problem.

Editor’s Note: Check out the “5-minute Yoga Tools for Transformation” – simple upa-yoga practices for joy, peace, wellbeing, success and more. You can also download the app for Android and iOS.