Breathe into a Healthier You

Posted on Saturday, June 14th, 2008
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

In today’s world of chaos and multi-tasking, stress is inevitable.  It’s true that simple changes can be made in our daily routines to make stress more manageable, but even beyond that, breathing can protect our bodies from stresses harmful effects. 

The nervous system is comprised of two divisions: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.  Having a balance of both are key to a healthy body.  However, with the increased stresses of today’s society, people tend to have an over active sympathetic reaction, as the “fight or flight” has become an ongoing reaction in our bodies.  This overactive sympathetic nervous system is linked to high blood pressure and weight redistribution around the center of our bodies.  Appropriate in emergent situations the body reacts by increasing the heart rate, and blood flow to the brain, while slowing down digestion.  This enables us to remain focused and to react quickly.

In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system slows down the heart rate, lowers blood sugar, increases blood to the outer surfaces of the body and skin and speeds up digestive movement.  These metabolic rhythms are usually working in harmonious balance; however, navigating through today’s hectic lifestyle is synonymous to protecting ourselves from an outside threat, thereby causing an imbalance in our rhythms with the scale leaning more towards a sympathetic nervous reaction.

Breathwork is a cognitive approach to purposeful breathing in order to bring back the balance between the two nervous systems.  It is proven that breathwork results in lowering blood pressure and decreasing heart rate.  Learning this breathing technique can help reduce the effects of the overactive sympathetic nervous system and will result in better energy levels, sleep patterns, digestions and blood flow. 

Becoming successful at breathwork – the technique

Breathwork is a conscious breathing technique best achieved in a quiet undistracted place.  Sitting in a comfortable chair, back straight and head in a neutral position, place your tongue in a “yogic” position: tongue curved up to the backs of your upper front teeth, and then point it back so that it is on the surface between the backs of the teeth and the palate.  This position is said to keep the energies in the body by using the tongue as the connector of the two nerve currents which run in opposite polarity.

Begin taking notice of your breathing.  Be conscious of your breathing patterns as you exhale and inhale, concentrate on your natural rhythm.  Be aware of your thoughts, as it is common for the mind to wander during this cognitive breathing.  Take notice of such wandering, and bring yourself back to focusing on your breathing cycle.  As you breathe, take notice of where your breath is, beginning through the nose, into the lungs, back through the lungs and out the mouth.  You may visualize a different pattern or path that your breath will take, and that is okay.  This visionary exercise is yours, and it will only help you focus deeper into your breathing.

To reap the benefits of this breathing technique, be consistent and incorporate into your daily life, even if only for a few minutes at a time.  Some cognitive breathing is better than nothing.  You may wish to expand your time so that it becomes more meditative. In short, breathwork will result in balance between the nervous systems, and harmony between your physical and mental being.

Categories: Developing Awareness

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