Life has four characteristics: it exists (at birth), evolves (when growing up), expresses (when interacting with creatures) and extinguishes (at death). And for these, it depends, as Empedocles confirms, on five elements: air, earth, fire, water, and ether. These correspond to the five senses: sight, smell, taste, sound and touch. These 5 elements flow into one another. Each one of the elements contains the other four. The subtlest element in us is space (ether), which the mind is made up of, and the grossest element is the earth, which our bones, skin and body structure are made up of.
To bring good health to your system, first, attend to the ether element, that is, the mind element. A mind clogged with too many impressions and thoughts drains you of your resistance power and prepares your body for some illness. If the mind is clear, calm, meditative and pleasant, the resistance in the body increases; it would not allow an illness to come into the body. Thus, the first remedy is to calm down the mind, provided by the ether. Then proceed to the air element, the breathing. Aromatherapy depends on this element. And then light — the colour therapy. You can see an illness in the aura of a person before it manifests in the body. By energizing our system with the prana — life energy or breath — you can clear the aura and prevent the illness before it comes. That is what yoga does. Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, says that the purpose of yoga is, “Stopping the sorrow before it arises.” And then, come to the water element. Fasting with water, purifying the system with water can bring a balance in the system. And final recourse, of course, is different medicinal herbs, medicines and surgery. All these come when everything else fails or when we neglect these other steps; then it becomes inevitable.
Our breath has a lot of secrets to offer to us, because for every emotion in the mind, there is corresponding rhythm in the breath. And each rhythm affects certain part of the body physically. Observing the great correlation between these sensations, the level of body and moods of the mind is meditation. Breathing is the first act of life and this is also the last act of life. In between, though we are breathing in and out forever, we do not attend to the breath. If you attend to the breath, you'll find that in one minute we breathe nearly sixteen to seventeen times. If you are upset you may go up to twenty; if you are extremely tense and angry, maybe twenty-five breaths per minute. But if you are calm, pleasant and happy, you will breathe ten times; and if you are in deep meditation, then only two breaths or three. If you observe an infant and its breathing pattern, you will be amazed how balanced it breathes. Infants breathe from all the three sections of the body. Their breath goes very deep, and as they breathe in, their belly comes out; as they breathe out their belly moves in. But the more nervous and tense you are, the more you will do the reverse.