Breathing, by all means, is one of the most basic of things we do every day. So basic that we take it for granted or easily ignore it.
You see in movies how people are told to take deep breaths, to breathe in a particular way? While this might seem cliché, it actually works. A brief review of the latest science on breathing and the brain, and overall health serves as a reminder that breathing deserves much closer attention – there’s more going on with each breath than we all realise.
Often we see doctors and nurses telling people to breathe, to take a slow and deep breath in followed by a long exhalation. This exercise may seem like an inadequate method to quell anxiety but it has proven to work time and time again as there is a science to it. A good amount of studies has been conducted to determine the link between breathing and various aspects of the human body.
Scientists now understand why aspects such as deep breathing, breath-focus of meditation, can bring calmness and tranquility. Researchers led by Mark Krasnow, a Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford University found that a group of nerves in the brain which regulates breathing has a direct connection to the arousal centre of the brain. In other words, breathing can have a direct effect on the overall activity level of the brain. While the admonition to control breathing to calm the brain has been around for ages, only recently has science started uncovering how it works. The 2016 study accidentally stumbled on the neural circuit in the brainstem that seems to play the key role in the breathing-brain control connection. The circuit is part of what’s been called the brain’s “breathing pacemaker” because it can be adjusted by altering breathing rhythm (slow, controlled breathing decreases activity in the circuit; fast, erratic breathing increases activity), which in turn influences emotional states.
Various other studies have shown that:
∙ breathing can regulate blood pressure,
∙ counting breaths taps into the brain’s emotional control region,
∙ rhythm of breathing affects memory, and
∙ controlled breathing may boost the immune system and improve energy metabolism.
Breathing Through Anything
Whether you’re suffering anxiety, road rage, or just having to deal with stressful situations, people or other external factors, here are 6 breathing techniques that can get you through such moments and as well help you find your balance.
Sama Vritti or “Equal Breathing”
Balance can do a body good, beginning with the breath. To start, inhale for a count of four, and then exhale for a count of four — all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Got the basic pranayama down? More advanced yogis can aim for six to eight counts per breath with the same goal in mind: calm the nervous system, increase focus and reduce stress, Pacheco says.
Anytime, anyplace — but this is one technique that’s especially effective before bed. “Similar to counting sheep,” Pacheco says, “if you’re having trouble falling asleep, this breath can help take your mind off the racing thoughts, or whatever might be distracting you from sleep.”
Level of difficulty: Beginner
2. Abdominal Breathing Technique
With one hand on the chest and the other on the belly, take a deep breath in through the nose, ensuring the diaphragm (not the chest) inflates with enough air to create a stretch in the lungs. The goal: Six to 10 deep slow breaths per minute for 10 minutes each day to experience immediate reductions to heart rate and blood pressure, McConnell says. Keep at it for six to eight weeks, and those benefits might stick around even longer.
Before an exam, or any stressful event. But keep in mind, “Those who operate in a stressed state all the time might be a little shocked how hard it is to control the breath,” Pacheco says. To help train the breath, consider biofeedback tools such as McConnell’s Breathe Strong app, which can help users pace their breathing wherever they are.
Level of difficulty: Beginner
Remember, regardless of all the evil, there is still so much good and kindness in the world. I urge you to go out there and show kindness, spread love, spray light, and BREATHE.
If you are interested in learning more about how to breathe through anything, sign up for a session at Breathe Yoga Studio via www.breathestudio.ng and @breathe.ng on Instagram or call 07031214305 to get started.
Until next time,
For Breathe Yoga Studio Team