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The Science of The Breath

Breathing is everything. Rather, correct breathing is everything.

It can be the difference between a super-strong pain-free body and one that’s under constant Cortisol distress and full of instability.

When you take a deep breath in and your diaphragm contracts down, it stimulates the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, this sends a message back up to the brain telling you to relax. Lots of wonderful things happen when we relax. We sleep better,  food digest better, the process of waste products elimination is better, and even sex is better.

So, what happens if you have a shallow breathing pattern and the top of your chest and shoulders move primarily when you take air in? Say hello to your friend Cortisol — your body is thrown into a flight or fight stimulus! No one needs that extra stress, life is hard enough, so let’s break it down a bit more and get you into a correct deep breathing pattern.

How do you take a deep breath?

Although many people feel a deep breath comes solely from the expansion of the chest, chest breathing (in of itself) is not the best way to take a deep breath. While most of us never give breathing a second thought, the way we draw breath can affect our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Breathing correctly is the path to self-healing. Besides transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide through the bloodstream, how else do you think the breath contributes to our health and well-being?

Reducing stress, sleeping better, or relieving pain – all may be as simple as becoming conscious of our breath. Deep breathing techniques can change our life!

Becoming conscious of our breath

Poor breathing habits can lead to negative health consequences—our body’s organs cannot work to their full potential without plenty of oxygen and the proper elimination of carbon dioxide. Many common health ailments such as high blood pressure, migraine headaches, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, depression, asthma, and insomnia. can be at least alleviated or completely controlled simply by making a conscious effort to breathe slowly and deeply.

Breathing properly can reduce stress levels, improve workouts and boost your immunity to infections and illnesses. Poor breathing can contribute to panic attacks and even conditions like insomnia and depression.

So, what can we do to reverse these obviously undesirable effects? Simply pause and become aware of the incoming and outgoing breath. Allow the breath’s rhythm to the center, ground and calm you. Just Breathe Consciously! 

Conscious breathing is a great form of meditation that can be easily practiced anywhere, anytime! 

Test #1: Place your hands surrounding your rib cage right under your chest and take in a big breath of air. Your ribs should move out in the front, sides, and back. Did you feel them move? They should move a lot! Maybe you only felt some of your ribs move? Did the ribs on the back left under your thumb not move as much as the right? No? There’s the source of that neck or midback tightness you’ve been feeling. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Step one: Get your ribs to expand out in a 360 fashion when you breathe.

Test #2: Did your diaphragm contract down in a deep breathing pattern with great rib expansion? Did you feel expansion right under your ribcage or did your ribcage move followed by your shoulders and your belly suck in? Now, I want you to drop a couple of fingers down under your ribcage while leaving one or two on top. Take a deep breath in. Did it expand out into your fingers right under your ribcage?

Breathing is absolutely essential to life, but it’s often overlooked as a necessity for good health. Practicing conscious breathing can help us to improve our sleep, reduce stress, and boost overall health.

Breathing properly can reduce stress levels, improve workouts and boost your immunity to infections and illnesses. Poor breathing can contribute to panic attacks and even conditions like insomnia and depression. Conscious breathing is a great form of meditation that can be easily practiced anywhere, anytime! Simply pause and become aware of the incoming and outgoing breath. Allow the breath’s rhythm to the center, ground and calm you.

Breathing is most unique as compared to other visceral (e.g. digestion, endocrine, or cardiovascular) functions in that it can also be regulated voluntarily.

Cellular metabolism (reactions in the cell to produce energy) for example, is regulated by oxygen provided during breathing. There is clear evidence that controlled breathing techniques can affect oxygen consumption and metabolism (Jerath et al., 2006). In fact, much of the aim of pranayama breathing (yogic breathing) appears to shift the autonomic nervous system away from its sympathetic (excitatory) dominance. Pranayama breathing has been shown to positively affect immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders (Jerath et al., 2006). Jerath and colleagues add those investigations regarding stress and psychological improvements support evidence that pranayama breathing alters the brain’s information processing, making it an intervention that improves a person’s psychological profile.”

Slow pranayama breathing techniques show the most practical and physiological benefit, yet the underlying mechanism of how they work is not fully elucidated in the research (Jerath et al., 2006). However, Jerath and colleagues hypothesize that “the voluntary, slow deep breathing functionally resets the autonomic nervous system through stretch-induced inhibitory signals and hyperpolarization (slowing electrical action potentials) currents…which synchronizes neural elements in the heart, lungs, limbic system and cortex.” As well, investigations have demonstrated that slow breathing pranayama breathing techniques activate the parasympathetic (inhibitory) nervous system, thus slowing certain physiological processes down that may be functioning too fast or conflicting with the homeostasis of the cells (Jerath et al., 2006).

Thus, one meaningful aspect in learning breathing techniques is the awareness in the difference in smooth, even breathing to erratic breathing. Modifications in respiratory patterns come naturally to some individuals after one lesson, however, it may take up to six months to replace bad habits, and ultimately change the way one breathes (Sovik, 2000). The general rule, often noted in studies, and particularly observed by Gallego et al. (2001) was that if a voluntary act is repeated, “learning occurs, and the neurophysiological and cognitive processes underpinning its control may change.” Gallego et al. continue that while some changes can be made, the need for longer-term studies is warranted to better understand the attention-demanding phases involved with these breathing changes.

To summarize, Sovik suggests the characteristics of optimal breathing (at rest) are that it is diaphragmatic, nasal (inhalation and exhalation), smooth, deep, even, quiet and free of pauses.

Final Thoughts
The research is very clear that breathing exercises (e.g. pranayama breathing) can enhance parasympathetic (inhibit neural responses) tone, decrease sympathetic (excitatory) nervous activity, improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, decrease the effects of stress, and improve physical and mental health (Pal, Velkumary, and Madanmohan, 2004). 

 

 

WOHASU 2018 – Video Presentation.

Learn how to access the power that lies within you!

As the Chair of the 2018 Global Yoga Community Board for The World Happiness Summit- (WOHASU),  I felt honored to also have been invited to provide a presentation alongside world leaders in the science of happiness.

Because the pursuit of happiness is such a personal journey that is dependent on several factors,  I wanted to share with you, one of the most basic and powerful tools to access your happiness. The tool that I presented at WOHASU 2018 conference, was The Power of the Breath”. 

This video will endeavor to explain the physiological mechanisms and the mind-body connection of breathing, as well as many of the research driven applications utilized with breathing. 

I hope you enjoy this presentation and that you can pass this information on to your love ones 🙂

Much Love and Gratitude,

 

 

 

 

WOHASU 2018 – ‘What Is Yoga?” by Veronica Vidal

Veronica Vidal is a Fellow Founder and  the Chair of  the Global Yoga Community Board  for The World Happiness Summit 2017, 2018 (WOHASU) 

In this video presentation Veronica explains what is Yoga and why practice Yoga as an integral part to find happiness ? 
“Happiness is a choice that one needs to cultivate, and yoga is a powerful tool to sustain happiness, as well as to become resilient to the inevitable vicissitudes of life.”

Discover the Ultimate Relaxation Experience

In my yoga journey of practicing and studying this ancient discipline, I’ve been extremely fortunate to receive individual and personalized guidance for more than 25 years from a great yoga teacher from India, Swami Brahmavidyananda Saraswati -“Swamiji” 

In the photo to the left, I am with Swamiji, in Bihar, India.

In all the years shared with Swamiji, I have learned countless yoga techniques, breathing exercises, relaxation methods, meditation, and yoga therapies. Of these, one of the most powerful techniques I learned with Swamiji was the practice of YOGA NIDRA.

Yoga Nidra is a powerful strategy to counteract the speed and effects of stress in our bodies and minds.

Also, and as important, it is an infallible tool when it comes to re-programming the subconscious mind, to achieve one”s desired goals and objectives.

Yoga Nidra is proven to reduce stress & increase the sense of  well-being  in as little as a few minutes a day!

Get your copy for ONLY $2.99 click here 

 

        ¿What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is a powerful technique of guided meditation and deep relaxation developed in India.

Yoga Nidra means “Yoga of psychic sleep”. However, its purpose is not to fall asleep. The goal of Yoga Nidra is to achieve deep conscious relaxation.

It is a technique that allows the mind to stay awake in a state between wakefulness and sleep, while the body sleeps. In other words, it is a dream state with full lucidity, where the person lies on the borderline between being asleep and awake.

In Yoga Nidra, the mind must be fully engaged in following instructions, which are quick and require acute attention.

Yoga Nidra is a method to withdraw the senses inward and to reduce awareness of the external world. As a result, one achieves a deep state of relaxation to release psychosomatic tensions and to free the mind from the material that upsets it.

1 hour of Yoga Nidra equals to 4 hours of sleep at night.

If you practice just before bedtime, the whole body and mind will relax, your sleep will be deeper and restorative, and you will benefit even with fewer hours of sleep.

 How is Yoga Nidra practiced?

The session of Yoga Nidra should be guided by a teacher or by an audio recording. (click here for your copy)

Unlike other meditation practices, Yoga Nidra should be performed in Savasana (lying comfortably on your back with your eyes closed.)

The position should be symmetrical to receive the benefits of relaxation on both sides of the body simultaneously.

During the whole session of Yoga Nidra, you must remain in the same position, so it is very important that you find the greatest comfort. (You can use blankets and pillows to achieve your ideal position of relaxation.)

Eyes should be closed during the entire session.

Focus on the present moment. Leave aside what you have done so far or what you have left to do. Commit yourself to being here and now.

It is important to stay alert to avoid falling asleep. Especially at the beginning, it is normal to fall asleep, but do not make it a habit. Try to finish the session and then fall asleep. Otherwise, you may miss the countless benefits that Yoga Nidra offers.

How do you “program the mind” with Yoga Nidra?   

The mind has three dimensions: conscious, subconscious and unconscious.

Yoga Nidra is a revolutionary way to cut out the resistance and mental chatter you experience when you sit down for meditation.

The state reached during the practice of Yoga Nidra reaches the depths of the subconscious and unconscious. In this profound mental state, a personal “resolution” is established (what in India is called “Sankalpa”). The “resolution” established in the depths of the mind, is just like planting a seed in the fertile soil.

For this reason, Yoga Nidra is an effective and direct instrument of personal mental purification and self-programming.

What exactly is the “Sankalpa”?  

Sankalpa (Sanskrit संकल्प) means a determination, a personal resolution, a desire, an intention formed in the heart or in the mind. It is the first practical step by which to increase the potentiality of the mind and the ability to harness willpower.

Sankalpa is an affirmative resolution that is mentally repeated three times at the beginning and the end of Yoga Nidra. It has to be a short and positive phrase, that you can feel and visualize. This repeated mental resolution in a state of relaxation will be like a command that the subconscious mind, receives from the conscious mind in a state of high receptivity, and then manifest itself on a conscious level bringing changes in all aspects of a person’s life.

How do you establish a “personal resolution” (Sankalpa)?

Sankalpa is a positive affirmation that you make for yourself.

Before starting the session of Yoga Nidra you must decide on what you want to modify or strengthen in your personality or achieve in your life.

The phrase (Sankalpa) you choose should be brief, formulated in present time, in the first person and always with a positive statement.

Below see some examples:

“I am happy and enjoy every moment of my life”
“I attract abundance of success, peace, and love into my life”
“I love and respect myself at all times.”
“I believe in myself firmly”
“I am calm and at peace”
“I enjoy being in perfect health.”

The process of choosing your Sankalpa is very important. You must do an introspection exercise and decide what are your weaknesses that you want to strengthen, or what is that you long for in life.

Since you must repeat it at the beginning and at the end of the practice, remember to have your “resolution” (Sankalpa) determined before starting the Yoga Nidra session.

How long does a Yoga Nidra session last?

Depending on what you want to achieve, there are different duration. The typical session lasts around 25 minutes.

Who can perform yoga nidra? 

Yoga Nidra can be done by everyone except those who have episodes of epilepsy or psychotic breakouts.

What is the best time to practice Yoga Nidra? 

The best times for practicing Yoga Nidra are mornings as soon as you wake up,  and at night, before you fall asleep.

Another suggested time for the practice of Yoga Nidra is when you finish the session of Yoga postures (Hatha Yoga).  Once in Savasana (relaxation pose)  begin with the Yoga Nidra session. This is my favorite moment.

What are the benefits of Yoga Nidra? 

Yoga Nidra offers countless benefits:

At the mental-emotional level:

  • It acts as an antidote to stress.
  • Reduces anxiety by acting as a natural sedative.
  • It creates a sense of peace and tranquility that lasts throughout the day.
  • It activates both hemispheres of the brain, therefore, relaxing the mind and allowing one to think with more openness.
  • It awakens creativity and clears the mind.
  • Improves memory and learning.
  • Increases willpower.
  • It improves the quality of sleep and fights insomnia.

These benefits are cumulative: the more one relaxes, the more the tranquility one experiences. The more we practice conscious relaxation techniques, the easier and faster we will be able to reach an alpha state of mind and stay in it longer.

At the physical level: 

  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Relaxes the body
  • Relieves body pain.
  • Regulates breathing.
  • Increases the level of oxygen to the brain and cells in general.
  • Decreases muscle tension.
  • Reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol secretion by the adrenal glands.
  • Reduces levels of cholesterol and fats in the blood.
  • It increases the level of production of leukocytes, which strengthens the immune system.

The practice of Yoga Nidra will take you to deep mental states of calmness and tranquility. Use Yoga Nidra and you’ll see how altering your brain-waves can instantly transport you into a magical state of deep relaxation.

The resolution formulated during the practice of Yoga Nidra is like planting a “powerful seed” in your subconscious mind.  From the depth of your own subconsciousness, you will be able to break the codes of self-limiting beliefs.

With the practice of Yoga Nidra, your own mind will lead you to the desired transformation in your personality and in your life.

Yoga Nidra guided meditation is the most effective way to transform your life.

You already have a vision of what you want for your life. Set your intention. Start turning your dreams into reality. With the practice of Yoga Nidra, you can actually, become the architect of your destiny.

Click Here to Get Your Yoga Nidra Now for ONLY $2.99! 

Download on your computer, or any MOBILE DEVICE this powerful guided meditation that I prepared just for you. This is the loyal transcript, word for word,  faithfully from its very cradle,  INDIA. (Click Here)

Please, let me know if you have any questions about this powerful yoga technique.

Remember, to share with me how you do with this ancestral and infallible tool!

With Love and Gratitude,

Veronica Vidal