Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 6 / OCTOBER 1985


Your guru, the Atari


Your Atari can be used as a meditation tool for helping you learn to relax and fight stress. This BASIC program runs on all 8-bit Atari computers of any memory size, with disk or cassette.

Atai enthusiasts tend to believe that using their favorite computer makes them feel better. Now you can put this to the test! Use your trusty machine to help you learn the breathing techniques of pranayama yoga which-if done right-let you relax and fight the stress of the workaday world.
   Before you RUN the Yoga Breathing program, (Listing 1, BREATHEBAS, which needs to be typed in, checked with TYPO II and SAVEd), read this article to learn the basic yoga approach to breathing for relaxation.

Within your chest are a heart and two lungs. Below that is the abdomen, separated by a flexible muscle called the diaphragm.
   Breathing expands the lungs and draws air into your body. Oxygen is then extracted from the air and passed into your blood. Without sufficient oxygen you'll be sluggish, drowsy and lethargic. Thus, correct breathing requires drawing air into the lungs so that the greatest amount of blood receives oxygen.
   Pushing your abdomen outward pulls the diaphragm down, expanding the lower lungs and creating a vacuum to draw air in. If you sit in an upright position, gravity will force more blood into the bottom of your lungs than into the middle or top.
   With this type of breathing, called diaphragmatic, you get more air into your lower lungs-where there is more blood to carry oxygen through the body. This is the most efficient method of breathing.
   Unfortunately, most people usually do chest breathing, which is not nearly as effective. In chest breathing you expand the ribs to aerate the central lungs. This is relatively inefficient because most of the air does not end up in the lower lungs where there is more blood to carry oxygen through the body.

When you've learned to breathe diaphragmatically, this computer program will help you master the fine control of your breathing process. People with respiratory diseases should consult their doctor before using this program.
   With this fine control, a person who practices structured diaphragmatic breathing daily will gradually be able to produce the respiratory patterns associated with relaxed states of mind.
   A good way to get started breathing diaphragmatically is to try this exercise: Lie flat on your back. Put one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Keep your mouth closed for all breathing exercises and breathe exclusively through your nose. When you inhale, push your abdomen out and try to keep your chest from moving. When you exhale relax the muscles you used to push your abdomen out.
   If you are breathing diaphragmatically, the hand on your abdomen will rise and fall as you breathe, while the hand on your chest remains steady.
   Now would be a good time to try a simple relaxation procedure. Find a quiet dimly-lit space in your abode. Lie flat on your back, close your eyes and begin breathing in a gentle, relaxed, diaphragmatic fashion. When you inhale, imagine clean, fresh, vitalizing air entering your body. When you exhale, imagine that all your muscular tensions are leaving with your breath. Try it!
   The next step is to try that same two-handed breathing exercise in a straight-back chair. You may discover that your exhalation in this position might not seem as complete as when you were lying flat. The reason is that when you are flat on your back, gravity will aid your exhaling. But when you're sitting upright, the motion of your abdomen is horizontal.

RUNning the Yoga Breathing program, you'll see the word PRANAYAMA at the top of the screen. This is the Sanskrit word denoting certain yoga breathing practices. Below this, you'll see the following parameters: SOUND, COUNT, INHALE, RETAIN, and EXHALE. As you are modifying any of the parameters, they will appear in double height letters.
   Place a joystick in port 1. Stick up or down moves between parameters. Stick left and right will change the value of the parameter.
   The sound feature gives you audible cues to time your breathing cycle. But at first, you'll want to use both the screen and sound prompts to cue your breathing. So leave the SOUND on. Next highlight COUNT and set the value to 10. Change INHALE to 4, RETAIN to 0, and EXHALE to 4. When these values are set, press the joystick trigger.
   The program will display the word INHALE for approximately 4 seconds, RETAIN will be bypassed, and EXHALE will be displayed for 4 seconds.


The cycle will repeat ten times. While the program is running you can sit with a relaxed straight back and begin timing your diaphragmatic breathing to the program. This current set-up will allow for approximately 80 seconds of practice (10 * [4+4] = 80).
   Once you've gotten the hang of using the program, set COUNT to 40. Again begin diaphragmatic breathing and press the trigger. Follow the cues of the program, remembering to breathe through your nose in an even fashion. There should be no pauses or jerkiness in the breathing.
   Yogis place great value on the relation between inhalation, retention and exhalation cycles. Try starting at 4 seconds for the inhale, 0 seconds for the retain, and 4 seconds for the exhalation. Notice that the relationship of the inhale, retain, and exhale is 1,0,1. That is a traditional beginning formula.
   As you begin to become comfortable with the breathing practice you might want to gradually slow your inhale and exhale to 10 seconds for each. A summary of some breathing patterns is listed in the table below.

  1        0      1
  1        0      2
  1        1      1
  1        1      2
  1        2      2
  1        4      2

The bottom four relationships are for advanced yoga students and should not be attempted without instruction from a competent Yoga instructor.
   In a world filled with pressure it is useful to develop skills that help shield ourselves from the potential ravages of stress. If your breathing session goes well you will most likely feel more relaxed afterward.
   For further reading, I warmly recommend The Science of Breath by Swami Rama, R. Ballentine, M.D. and A. Hymes, M.D., published by the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy

High school teacher Len Dorfman is a rarity-a professional, speedy machine language programmer who never really learned BASIC. He originally submitted this program to Antic as a lengtby, hard-to-type assembler listing So for a smooth BASIC conversion, we suggested that Len get together with his fellow Long Islander, Antic Contributing Editor Jerry White.

Listing 1   BREATHE.BAS Download