Deep Breath to Control Body and Mind
The way you breath is the way you live. Breathing is absolutely essential to life. Deep Breathing is Rejuvenate, regenerative and restorative. It can cleanse us of toxins that have built up in the body and the mind.The control breath is a powerful breathing exercise to release stress build up.
The first phase in healthy breathing is to become conscious of how we actually breathe. The second phase is to begin to exaggerate and expand your breath capacity. The third phase is to purify and cleanse the body with the exhale. The next phase is to turn your attention inward with each breath and feel deeply into your body.
Controlling your breathing is directly related to thoughts and emotions. Breath control, also known as “paced respiration,” “diaphragmatic breathing” and “deep breathing,” has long been a feature of Eastern health practices. It became more visible in the West after Dr. Herbert Benson’s book, “The Relaxation Response”, hit shelves in the mid 1970s. Whatever you choose to call controlled breathing, the dynamic at work is full oxygen exchange: more oxygen enters the body and more carbon dioxide exits.
The Art of Control Breath: A Powerful Exercise to Purify and Rejuvenate the Body and Mind.
Breath-control is also useful on a mental level. Any type of focus on your breathing can help you concentrate but the nervous system works best if you breathe less than normal.
Breath-control works on the cardiovascular and circulatory system. You can enhance the movement of energy and information through your subtle channels and enhance the movement of blood and heat through your blood vessels by breathing differentially from your abdomen (diaphragmatic breathing) or from your chest (thoracic breathing).
You can also bring more blood and oxygen to the brain and heart and less blood and oxygen to the arms and legs by breathing less than normal (hypoventilation). Conversely, you can bring less blood and oxygen to brain and heart and more blood and oxygen to the arms and legs by breathing more than normal (hyperventilation).
The basic mechanics of controlled breathing differ a bit depending on who is describing them, but they usually include three parts:
(1) inhaling deeply through the nose for a count of five or so, making sure that the abdomen expands.
(2) holding the breath for a moment.
(3) exhaling completely through the mouth for a count longer than the inhalation.
On an average a human being has a respiratory rate of 15 to 20 respirations. Ancient Indian yogis believed that by reducing the respiratory rate, longevity can be enhanced. Yogis have recommended that you should draw breath, hold breath, and breath out at the ratio of 1:4:2 for healthy living.
Pranayama: Breathing Exercises
Have you ever noticed that when you are surprised by incredible news you tend to hold your breath? It is a natural reaction. This can also work backwards, i.e., if you can control your breathing, you can control your mind. This is the basic principle behind “pranayama” – the technique of yogic breathing exercises. Though on a gross level you are trying to gain control over your breathing, in essence subconsciously you are trying to gain control over your very prana (the vital life force). Prana means “life force” and “yama” means “practice”. So, pranayama is the science of gaining control over vital life force beginning with gaining control over your breath.
Holding breath is called “Kumbaka pranayama”. Kumbaka pranayama helps you to gain control over the working of your mind and ultimately over your senses. A regular practice of this improves the pranic energy of an individual to a great extent. This is the reason that pranayama is mandatory before performing occult rituals in Indian tradition.
A regular practitioner of pranayama gains such pranic vitality that one can use his pranic energy for healing purposes. Very many occult siddhis are obtained if a practitioner is successful in performance of pranayama. There are various types of pranayama: some are useful for purification of body (like bastika), some are useful for improving vitality, some to generate heat, some to cool your body (seethali pranayama),etc. These should be learnt under the close supervision of an expert as faulty practice of these can lead to undesirable side effects.
There is one particular type of pranayama called suka-purvaka pranayama which anyone can practice with good results. In this respiration is done with alternate nostrils. Close your nostril with your right thumb. Draw in air for a duration of 5 seconds. After that close both nostrils and hold your breath for a duration of 20 seconds. Then release the air slowly for a duration of 10 seconds with your right nostril (by closing the left nostril with the little and ring fingers of your right hand). Now, closing the left nostril, draw in air using the right nostril for 5 seconds. Hold breath for 20 seconds, and leave out air through your left nostril (by closing your right nostril with your right thumb). This is one cycle of suka-puraka pranayama. Beginners should restrict themselves to 5 cycles per day and should progress gradually.
The practice of this pranayama mentioned above improves vitality, gives cure from respiratory diseases, improves the functioning of the lungs, and helps the yogi to convert ojas (physical vitality) into tejas (spiritual and psychic vitality). While practising this, you will observe that your mind comes under your control gradually.
You will feel energized after this practice. The time duration have mentioned above is for beginners. As you progress, you can gradually improve on the duration taking care to maintain the ratio of 1:4:2. Never exert yourself forcibly while doing this. This should be done with a conscious mind and deliberate rythm. You will find that this is a very good stress-busting exercise. However those suffering from chronic blood pressure ailments and heart patients should consult their physicians before practising this. Let the wisdom of ancient Indian seers help you to lead a better and healthy life.
Effects of Deep Breathing
- Mobilising the spine
- deep inhalation or deep exhalation can enhance either spinal flexion (bending your spine more forward) or enhance spinal extension (bending your spine more backwards) depending on whether the breathing is focused on the posterior (rear) or the anterior (front) of the trunk
- Stabilising the spine
- the muscles of breathing out (especially from the chest) can make your spine more stable and help relieve lower back pain
- Strengthening the spine and body
- the diaphragm (the main muscle of inhalation) can be used as powerful strength muscle
- Inhalation retention with the use of trunk muscle coactivation (bandhas) can help to manipulate the spinal vertebra and relieve pain in the neck upper back and/or lower back
- Control of the autonomic (automatic) nervous system via the diaphragm which can be controlled either by the conscious mind (somatic) or unconscious mind (autonomic)
- Reciprocal relaxation of the muscles of abdominal exhalation (which include many of the muscles that can tend to over-tense and contribute to lower back pain) by the main muscle of inhalation (the diaphragm)
- Focus on any type of breathing can help with concentration
- Reduced breathing (hypoventilation) leaves the body slightly more acidic (with carbonic acid), which gives the physiological effect of calming the nervous system and the mind in general
- Slow abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing tends to enhance parasympathetic control of relaxation response with ahimsa (non-violence) and/or love and peace and happiness as dominant emotions
- Faster chest (thoracic) breathing tends to enhance sympathetic control of ‘flight or fight’ response with tapas (passion to do your best) and/or fear anger and aggression as dominant emotions
- Deep breathing with the abdomen relax (which can be diaphragmatic and/or thoracic provided the abdomen is relaxed) causes an increase in blood flow
- With this type of breathing heart rate increases on inhalation as does blood pressure
- Heart rate decreases and blood pressure decreases on exhalation
- This type of breathing causes increased pressure into the abdomen on inhalation and decreased pressure on exhalation that increases blood flow and nervous system stimulation to the abdominal organs
- Diaphragmatic (abdominal) inhalations can help to reciprocally relax the muscles that cause forced abdominal exhalation and simultaneously immobilise the lower trunk and prevent the natural massaging of the digestive organs with spinal movements
- Diaphragmatic (abdominal) inhalations can help to bring flood to the digestive system that helps with the absorption of nutrients from your food
- Thoracic (chest) inhalations can (if done without needing to inhibit the diaphragm with the muscles of forced abdominal exhalation) relieve prolapse of internal organs that can prevent complete evacuation of the bowels
- Sequential abdominal exhalation using only the transverse abdominis fibres (not the oblique fibres) can help to promote peristalsis in in the intestines
- Diaphragmatic (abdominal) inhalations can help to reciprocally relax the muscles that cause forced abdominal exhalation and simultaneously immobilise the lower trunk and prevent the natural massaging of the reproductive organs with spinal movements
- Diaphragmatic (abdominal) inhalations can help to stimulate a better balance of the autonomic nervous system that can prevent proper fertility cycles (e.g. menstrual cycles in woman)
- Diaphragmatic (abdominal) inhalations can also can help to reciprocally relax the muscles that cause forced abdominal exhalation that can harder the abdominal region and prevent the menstrual flow
- Thoracic (chest) inhalations can (if done without needing to inhibit the diaphragm with the muscles of forced abdominal exhalation) relieve prolapse of internal organs that may be putting pressure on the bladder and the fallopian tubes that can prevent evacuation of the bladder and also prevent the release of eggs from the fallopian tubes that can result in extended periods of infertility
- Sequential abdominal exhalation using only the transverse abdominis fibres (not the oblique fibres) can help to promote massaging of both male and female reproductive glands
- Reduced breathing (hypoventilation) for
- Calmer nerves
- Increased oxygenation and blood flow to brain and heart
- Increased flow of air in the bronchial tubes to the lungs, which can help to relieve breathing difficulties and asthma
- Reduced hunger, and decreasing appetite for people needed to eat less or reduce weight
- Increased breathing (hyperventilation) for
- Stimulation of nerves
- increased mobility of the synovial fluid that lubricates joints and also lies between layers of muscles and between nerves and their sheaths that can help improve the functioning of joints, muscles and nerves
- Decreased oxygenation and blood flow to brain and heart
- Increased hunger and promoting appetite, which may be good for people who need to eat more
- Inhalation retention (antara kumbhaka) with the use of trunk muscle coactivation (bandhas) can cause an increased partial pressure of oxygen in the body that can give the recorded benefits, which include increased immunity, of hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- Deep slow inhalations or inhalation retention (kumbhaka) with movements of the spine can also cause an increased partial pressure of oxygen in the body that can give the recorded benefits, which include increased immunity, of hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- Exhalation retention (bhaya kumbhaka) and prolonged inhalation retention (antara kumbhaka) and even very slow breathing or deep meditation can induce enough hypoventilation and a resultant drop in pH (increased acidity) that has been shown to induce the production of stem cells and other factors that can be paramount to the healing responses of the immune system and the process of tissue regeneration that is the long sought secret that some call ‘the fountain of youth’
Five Reasons To Grab The Controls
This is the most direct application of controlled breathing and the one we hear about most. Our brains are routinely on high alert for threats in our environment—we’re wired to react defensively to anything that hints of imperiling us physically or psychologically.
Controlled breathing may be the most potent tool we have to prevent our brains from keeping us in a state of stress, and preventing subsequent damage caused by high stress levels. The relaxation response is a built-in way to keep stress in check.
The means by which controlled breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system is linked to stimulation of the vagus nerve—a nerve running from the base of the brain to the abdomen, responsible for mediating nervous system responses and lowering heart rate, among other things.
The vagus nerve releases a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine that catalyzes increased focus and calmness. A direct benefit of more acetylcholine is a decrease in feelings of anxiety. Stimulating the vagus nerve may also play a role in treating depression, even in people who are resistant to anti-depressant medications.
Lowering Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
Research suggests that when practiced consistently, controlled breathing will result in lower blood pressure and heart rate, which in turn results in less wear and tear on blood vessels. As described above, the vagus nerve plays a key role in this response.
Over time, using controlled breathing to lower blood pressure and heart rate can help prevent stroke and lower risk of cerebral aneurysm.
Sparking Brain Growth
One of the more intriguing research developments involving controlled breathing is that when it’s used to facilitate meditation, the result can be an actual increase in brain size. Specifically, the brain experiences growth in areas associated with attention and processing of sensory input.
The effect seems to be more noticeable in older people, which is especially good news because it’s the reverse of what typically happens as we age—gray matter usually becomes thinner. The result is consistent with other research showing an increase in thickness of music areas of the brain in musicians and visual-motor areas in the brains of jugglers. As in those cases, the key is consistent practice over time.
Changing Gene Expression
Another unexpected research finding is that controlled breathing can alter the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion. The study uncovering this finding was co-authored by none other than Herbert Benson himself, some 40 years after he brought controlled breathing into the spotlight with his book.
And this isn’t the first study linking controlled breathing to changes in genetic expression. Benson was also involved in a 2008 study indicating that long-term practice of the relaxation response results in changes to the expression of genes associated with how the body reacts to stress.
Stress Management Tip
If you are having a hard time imagining positive energy entering your body and negative energy leaving your body, or want to try something different, it can be very helpful to assign them colors. For example, think of positive energy as the color yellow. Imagine, as you breath in, the yellow air spreading through your body – your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, head, back, legs, feet, toes. You can chose one part of your body at a time to fill with positive energy each time you breath in.
The same with negative energy: Assign it a color, and imagine that energy around your body. Perhaps you feel particularly stressed or heavy in a certain part of your body, and you will sense this. As you breath out, visualize the color leaving your body, and repeat as many times as you feel may be needed to get rid of that negative energy.
When you’re done, your body will be showered and filled with a bright, positive energy; you will feel relaxed, peaceful, and recharged!
Allow yourself again to just be: You are in total control of yourself, your body, mind, and breathing. You will be feeling a liberating intimacy with who you really are. Some people get emotional when they first experience this deep understanding and connection, this feeling of oneness. Why? Because they had forgotten what it means to feel entire, to feel whole, and to feel true to themselves. For some, this is a highly positive moment of change in the way they approach their own image: Self confidence problems can vanish once you start to get back in touch with the wonderful gift — to breathe.
How you breathe will lead the way you live.