Holistic Health Through Proper Breathing
Breathing is one of the most neglected aspects of human functioning. This is because it’s a natural process and doesn’t usually require any conscious thought. Therefore most people take breathing for granted. Improving how we breathe can have a positive impact on our health.
It has long been accepted that emotions affect the breathing process and breathing patterns affect our emotions. Scientists have verified that the slightest change in respiration creates changes in the rest of the autonomic nervous system. And physical reaction is a basic essential part of our emotional state.
Respiration affects the right vagus nerve, which in turn controls the autonomic nervous system. This system regulates the secretion of adrenaline, thyroxin, and other hormones of the body. The secretion of these hormones plays a major role in creating your emotional state. Being mindful of your breathing pattern allows you to control your emotions.
Poor breathing produces anxiety, irritability, and tension and is the main obstacle to emotional health. This is a powerful statement when considering our ability to control how we feel.
If you pay close attention to the breath you will observe the link between breath and emotions. Notice when you become emotional the breath becomes shallow and erratic. Emotions such as anger, depression, and fear all have individual characteristic patterns of irregular breathing. For example–when your are angry the breath is held after inhaling, while depression is often characterized by deep sighs and long pauses after exhalations.
Basic Yogic Breathing Technique
- Close your eyes and relax.
- Slightly interweave your fingers, and place your hands on your belly over the navel area.
- Breathe deeply into your naval area, filling up your belly.
- Breathe with a slow breath, feeling your fingers pull apart and come back together. Try to match the amount of air you are taking in with that which you are exhaling. Focus on making each inhale and exhale as smooth as possible. Do this for 15-20 breaths.
- Now move your hands up to your ribcage. Continue with the smooth breaths, first filling your belly, and now your rib area. Focus on the exhale, first releasing from the ribs and then the belly, keeping it smooth. Do this for another 15-20 breaths.
- Move your hands up just below your collar bone. Breathe into your belly, ribs, and now the chest area. Keep it smooth. Release from the chest, ribs, and finally the belly. Practice this, and repeat 15-20 times.
There are many yogic breathing exercises that achieve specific results. Breathing techniques have been developed with a wide range of effects. The benefits include increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood, raising or lowering the blood pressure, and promoting relaxation.
A calm and alert state is attained by mindful, smooth and even diaphragmatic breathing. This allows the individual to truly experience the emotional state and regulate it, rather than allowing the emotional state to control us. When we are cognizant of the emotion we can address the anger or anxiety in a rational way. We have difficulty thinking when our brain is not receiving enough oxygen!
Peace & Love, Sandra
From the book Healing the Whole Person by Swami Ajaya