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conscious breathing

— Dr. Eivor G Johansson | Read time 2 min

Breathing. Conscious breathing is pivotal. Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, says that Breathing has a profound impact on our physiology and our health. “You can positively influence asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure,” Golubic says.

“There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions – they benefit.” He’s talking about modern science, but in India, breath work called pranayama is a regular part of yoga practice affecting both the mind and body for thousands of years.

Judi Bar teaches yoga to patients with chronic diseases at the Cleveland Clinic and she uses yoga and modifications of traditional yoga breathing exercises as a way to help them manage their pain and disease. 

What Happens in a Stressed Body?

The physiological stress response is actually designed to be an asset. It speeds the heart rate and diverts blood away from the gut and to the muscles so we can run away. In short, it keeps us safe. When you are stressed, you are bathing yourself in a whole soup of other nerve chemicals and hormones. If they hang around too long, those chemicals can impair the immune system. 

Breathing may Solve Mind-Body Pain

When you’re stressed our breaths will balance us. I learned “Breath of Fire” in Kundalini Yoga class in the ’80s and has worked for me in all situations since. It’s strong, intense, and very effective. “Breath of fire” is a great way to Prime your day. I do it every morning and throughout the day when I feel necessary. There are 4 different types of breathing and many different breathing techniques, depending on what your needs are. 

“Breath of Fire” Breathing Technique

  1. Sit tall in a cross-legged position. 
  2. Put your hands on your knees, palms facing upward.
  3. Inhale through your nose, and feel your belly expand.
  4. Exhale forcefully through your nose while contracting your abdominal muscles. Keep inhales and exhales equal in length. 
  5. Continue the rhythm, inhaling passively and exhaling forcefully. 
  6. Speed up the inhales and push exhales hard. 
  7. Repeat for 30 seconds. Over time, you can try doing Breath of Fire for longer.

Slow Down and – Just Breathe

Scientific Research has shown that breathing exercises like these can have immediate effects by altering the pH of the blood or changing blood pressure. But more importantly, they can be used as a method to train the body’s reaction to stressful situations and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones. It’s part of the “fight or flight” response – the part activated by stress. In contrast, slow, deep breathing actually stimulates the opposing parasympathetic reaction – the one that calms us down. 

The relaxation response is controlled by another set of nerves – the main nerve being the Vagus nerve. Think of a car throttling down the highway at 120 miles an hour. That’s the stress response, and the Vagus nerve is the brake. When you are stressed, you have your foot on the gas, pedal to the floor. When you take slow, deep breaths, that is what is engaging the brake.

Changing Gene Expression

Harvard researcher Herbert Benson coined the term “The Relaxation Response” in 1975 with a book of the same name. In it, Benson used scientific research to show that short periods of meditation, using breathing as a focus, could alter the body’s stress response. Benson claims his research shows that breathing can even change the expression of genes. He says that by using your breath, you can alter the basic activity of your cells with your mind. 

It does away with the whole mind-body separation. Here you can use the mind to change the body, and the genes were changing were the very genes acting in an opposite fashion when people are under stress. Of course, breathing is not the answer to every medical problem. The breath isn’t something Western medicine should blow off. It’s a powerful tool for influencing individual health and well-being. And the best part is all the ingredients are free and literally right under your nose.

Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any well-being and health programs.


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