The Science of Breathing To Turn Up More in Life

One of the most powerful tools we can use to get ourselves turned up and turned on for business meetings, or family gatherings, or a speech is the breath. Ironically, it’s free, easy and has direct access to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and yet, few people do it well.

The article below presents the benefits of breathing to reduce stress. We’re not so much interested in that, we want to use the breath to help as arrive in the moment, turn up. Please read the article but here’s the simple rub.

Inhalation infatuates, exhalation depresses. More of one than the other creates the imbalances that support emotion. When inhale and exhale are of the same length and volume (intensity) then, there’s balance in the brain, and, believe it or not, you turn up.

Yes, it’s temporary, and yes, it can take a bit of practice, but it works.

Stress Management with Breathing

The primary role of breathing is gas exchange: our cells need oxygen and their waste product, carbon dioxide, needs to be expelled. Breathing is an automatic body function, controlled by the respiratory centre of the brain. However, we can also deliberately change our rate of breathing.
Different healing systems, from different cultures, have long realised the healing benefits of the breath, including yoga, Tai Chi and some forms of meditation. Many holistic practitioners believe that the breath is the link between the physical body and the ethereal mind, and that spiritual insight is possible through conscious breathing.

Regardless of the philosophy, scientific studies have shown that correct breathing can help manage stress and stress-related conditions by soothing the autonomic nervous system.

A range of disorders

The use of controlled breathing as a means of promoting relaxation can help manage a range of disorders, including:

How we breathe

To stay inflated, the lungs rely on a vacuum inside the chest. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle slung underneath the lungs. When we breathe, the diaphragm contracts and relaxes. This change in pressure means that air is ‘sucked’ into the lungs on inhalation and ‘pushed’ out of the lungs on exhalation.

The intercostal muscles between the ribs help to change the internal pressure by lifting and relaxing the ribcage in rhythm with the diaphragm. Flexing the diaphragm requires the use of the lower abdominals. If your abdomen gently moves in and out while you breathe, then you are breathing correctly.

Breathing and stress

The brain sets the breathing rate according to carbon dioxide levels, rather than oxygen levels. When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes. Typically, an anxious person takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This style of breathing empties too much carbon dioxide out of the blood and upsets the body’s balance of gases. Shallow over-breathing – or hyperventilation – can prolong feelings of anxiety by exacerbating physical symptoms of stress, including:

  • Chest tightness
  • Constant fatigue
  • Faintness and lightheadedness
  • Feelings of panic
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Muscular aches, twitches or stiffness
  • Tingling, numb and cold hands and face.

The relaxation response

When a person is relaxed, their breathing is nasal, slow, even and gentle. Deliberately mimicking a relaxed breathing pattern seems to calm the autonomic nervous system, which governs involuntary bodily functions. Physiological changes can include:

  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduced amounts of stress hormones
  • Reduced lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue
  • Balanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
  • Improved immune system functioning
  • Increased physical energy
  • Feelings of calm and wellbeing.

Abdominal breathing

There are different breathing techniques to bring about relaxation. In essence, the general aim is to shift from upper chest breathing to abdominal breathing. You will need a quiet, relaxed environment where you won’t be disturbed for 10 to 20 minutes. Set an alarm if you don’t want to lose track of time.

Sit comfortably and raise your ribcage to expand your chest. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take notice of how your upper chest and abdomen are moving while you breath. Concentrate on your breath and try to breathe in and out gently through the nose. Your upper chest and stomach should be still, allowing the diaphragm to work more efficiently with your abdomen and less with your chest.

With each breath, allow any tension in your body to slip away. Once you are breathing slowly and with your abdominals, sit quietly and enjoy the sensation of physical relaxation.

Special considerations

Some people find that concentrating on their breath actually provokes panic and hyperventilation. If this is the case, look for another way to relax.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Stress management specialist, such as psychologist
  • Buteyko Practitioner.

Things to remember

  • Shallow, upper chest breathing is part of the typical stress response.
  • The stress response can be switched off by consciously breathing with the diaphragm.
  • Abdominal breathing plugs into the autonomic nervous system and encourages it to relax, bringing about a range of health benefits.

Published by Chris Walker

Uniquely Australian, highly intuitive and inspired, Chris Walker is on the forefront of radical personal development and change that inspires people to find purpose and to live in harmony with the Laws of Nature. His methods are dynamic, and direct. His work is gifted, heart-opening and inspirational. The process Chris embraces can be confrontational, but if you are prepared to “step out” the personal power that this knowledge gives you is without doubt life changing and truly inspiring. Chris’s purpose is to open hearts and to stop the hurt. His work comes from his heart and is a truly magnificent gift for anyone ready to receive it. Chris shows people how to bring spirit into their life and keep it there. His sensitivity and empathy to others is his gift. The most powerful thing that we can do with our lives is to be on purpose, and live with the knowledge of spirit. Chris helps you discover this, that which is already yours, and through his work, you will find the courage and love to honour your-self and follow your heart. Chris brings his work to individuals and businesses. He believes for business success, you first need to create personal success, and this happens when your business and the people within it are on purpose. Chris Walker is an author, a speaker and a truly inspirational individual who has been fortunate enough in this life to find and live his truth.

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