Much of illness comes from unbalanced functioning of the autonomic nervous system. When the tone of this system is not right, it can produce irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stomach and intestinal disorders, and many more problems. Our conscious minds have no direct access to this system, since it is operated independently of our minds. It is automatic.
We can, however, access this system through our breath. Breathing has direct connections to our emotional states and our moods. If you see someone who is angry or upset, you will see that they breath rapidly, shallowly, noisily and irregularly. But you cannot be upset if your breathing is slow, deep, quiet and regular. You cannot always center yourself emotionally by an act of will, but you can use your voluntary nerves to make your breathing slower, deeper, quieter and more regular, and the rest will follow.
Try doing this simple exercise whenever you can. Close your eyes and take a deep, audible breath. Keep your back straight and continue taking a deep breath, then letting it out. As you take the breaths, see how deep and quiet and regular you can make your breathing without feeling a sensation of not getting enough air, just let it feel perfectly comfortable. Do this for at least 8 breaths and then open your eyes and breathe normally.
By putting your attention on your breath, you change your state of consciousness, you begin to relax, and you detach yourself from ordinary awareness. Researchers have documented many cases of benefits of meditation: Lowered blood pressure, decreased heart and respiratory rates, increased blood flow, and greater relaxation response. Meditation can calm an agitated mind, create healthier minds and bodies, and put us in touch with our higher selves.