We spend our whole lives breathing and for the most part we are completely unaware of it. To breathe is to live, and the quality of breath can make a huge difference to our well-being; in fact, we are able to alter our mental state simply by breathing with awareness.
Many of our bodily functions can also be affected by our breath, like our heart rate and blood pressure. A clinical study into the effect of breathing on hypertension showed that slowed breathing at six breaths per minute reduced activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the ‘fight or flight’ response, as well as baroreflex and chemoreflex sensitivity. It was found that these effects seem potentially helpful in managing hypertension; therefore, learning the practice of conscious breathing through yoga is a valuable tool in managing your own health.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person ceases breathing repeatedly during the night, causing them bad quality sleep and other problems such as snoring, which has been connected to several health issues such as hypertension and even stroke (Young et al, 1993). Sufferers may also experience severe hypersomnolence, which is obviously a serious hazard for activities like driving (Young et al, 1993). The issues arise from airway collapse, the good news is with breathing exercises we learn through the practise of yoga, anybody can strengthen the muscles involved and gain better quality sleep!
An issue that may be overlooked frequently is that of mouth breathing. Frequently breathing through the mouth instead of the nose brings with it significant outcomes concerning structural development of the face as well as damaging the delicate respiratory tract tissue (Emslie et al, 1952). Taking air in through the nose is preferred as the nasal passage is designed to clean and warm the air in preparation for the alveoli in the lungs.
The process of breathing is complex, in terms of the brain’s involvement and it still isn’t fully understood by scientists; however, conscious breathing has been practiced successfully for thousands of years and the benefits recorded. The ancient yogis of India understood the benefits of breathing slowly; as they made comparisons to the animals around them they realised the species that lived the longest were also the ones that breathed slowest. Various pranayama (breath control) techniques were developed to assist in influencing the functions of the body and mind.
The way a person is breathing at any given time may be a good indication of how they are feeling, or experiencing a situation. When anxious, the muscular system may tense and breathing may become shallow and fast, possibly leading to hyperventilation and fainting. Altering the depth and length of the breath can therefore help to bring a person out of their mental state so that they can take further instruction; however, by creating a protocol that a person who experiences anxiety attacks can use during an episode is invaluable. The same concept is easily implemented to approach depressive disorders as there are breathing exercises to help increase noradrenaline and combat feeling low.
For guided meditation classes contact The Freedom Float Centre on 5535 7778 or check their events: https://www.freedomfloatcentre.com.au/events