Our body breathes automatically, it is both an involuntary and a voluntary process. We can alter the speed and the depth of our breathing, as well as choose to breathe through the mouth or nose.
These choices lead to physical changes in the body.
Short, slow, steady breathing activates your parasympathetic response while rapid, shallow breathing activates your sympathetic response, which is involved in releasing cortisol and other stress hormones.
If the goal is to relax, many people enjoy pranayama, or yogic breathing, which has been practiced for thousands of years for purposes of enhancing health, I practice it daily.
Pranayama can be done using nostril breathing (double, single or alternate), abdominal breathing or vocalized (chanting) breathing.
I always make an effort to breathe through my nose instead of my mouth.
Pranayama breathing involves 3 phases, they are:
- Retention and
Each can have varying lengths and tempos. Phase 2, retention (Kumbhaka) is said to be an important part of the breathing process and helps enhance the level of vital energy in the human body
According to a study in the International Journal of Yoga:“Slow and deep breathing is efficient as it reduces the ventilation in the dead space of the lungs. Shallow breathing replenishes air only at the base of the lungs in contrast to deep breathing that replenishes the air in all parts of the lung.
It decreases the effect of stress and strain on the body by shifting the balance of the autonomic system predominantly toward the parasympathetic system and improves the physical and mental health. Many researchers have found pranayama to be beneficial in treating stress-related disorders … The effects of pranayama, when practiced with kumbhaka, are substantially more than pranayama practiced alone.”
The study involved 12 weeks of modified slow breathing exercise in a modified pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) form, with equal phases of inspiration, breath holding and exhalation (1-to-1-to-1 ratio).
Following the study, and compared to a control group that did not receive any intervention, the slow breathing group had reduced perceived stress and improved cardiovascular parameters, such as heart rate and blood pressure.
Even in the immediacy, slowing your respiratory rate to 6 breaths per min for a period of 5 mins has been shown to significantly reduce blood pressure and result in a small reduction in heart rate.
“Slow pace bhastrika pranayama (respiratory rate six/minute) exercise thus shows a strong tendency to improving the autonomic nervous system through enhanced activation of the parasympathetic system,” researchers explained.
Further research published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine suggests yogic breathing may do the following:
|Modulate cardiovascular variables in patients with hypertension and cardiac arrhythmias||Relieve symptoms and enhance pulmonary functions in bronchial asthma|
|Enhance mood for patients withdrawing from cigarette smoking||Reduce reaction time in specially abled children|
|Manage anxiety and stress in students||Modulate pain perception|
|Improve quality of life and sympathetic activity in patients with diabetes||Reduce cancer-related symptoms and enhance the antioxidant status of patients undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy for cancer|
Subtle changes in the way we breathe can lead to significant changes in our body and mind. And different breathing techniques have the potential to offer different advantages to our vital system.
So, it is a good idea to try out a variety and find out which works best, or simply rotate through them randomly.
One of the most effective breathing exercises to reduce stress and anxiety does not involve taking deep breaths at all but rather focuses on small breaths taken through your nose, as follows:
- Take a small breath into your nose, followed by a small breath out
- Then hold your nose for five seconds in order to hold your breath, and then release your nose to resume breathing
- Breathe normally for 10 secs
- Repeat the sequence
In their review of scientific evidence into the effects of controlled, yogic breathing, the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine compiled 1,400 references that involved the yogic breathing practices such as the following.
Try it now and see if it makes a difference for you, I learned it 18 yrs ago and it does make a difference.
Nadi Shodhana/Nadi Shuddhi (Alternate nostril breathing)
With your right thumb, close the right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Closing the left nostril, exhale through the right, following which, inhalation should be done through the right nostril. Closing the right nostril, breath out through your left nostril. This is one round. The procedure is repeated for the desired number of rounds.
Surya Nuloma Viloma (Right uninostril breathing)
Closing the left nostril, both inhalation and exhalation should be done through your right nostril, without altering the normal pace of breathing.
Chandra Anuloma Viloma (Left uninostril breathing)
Similar to Surya Nuloma Viloma, breathing is done through your left nostril alone, by closing the right nostril.
Surya Bhedana (Right nostril initiated breathing)
Closing the left nostril, inhalation should be done through your right nostril. At the end of inhalation, close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril. This is one round. The procedure is repeated for the desired number of rounds.
Ujjayi (Psychic breath)
Inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose at a normal pace, with partial contraction of the glottis, which produces a light snoring sound. You should be aware of the passage of breath through the throat during the practice.
Bhramari (Female honeybee humming breath)
After a full inhalation, closing the ears using the index fingers, you should exhale making a soft humming sound similar to that of a female honeybee.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively and Breathe
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