Posts

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.”

Including Yoga In Your Fitness Training Program

Why not enhance your athletic performance, improve the results of your fitness training and prevent injury by adding yoga to your exercise plan now?

A well-rounded yoga practice includes dynamic flexibility training, core stabilization, strengthening and balance work. By focusing on these vital elements, yoga can help you recover faster after workouts, open up the tight areas that hinder performance, improve range of motion, and developmental focus and concentration.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Stillness? Acceptance? Balance? That’s boring.” If that’s the case, maybe you have not yet tried to stay still in an arm balancing pose or even downward dog for a good length of time. Yoga can test your body and push it to its limit, all while fostering intentional breath and mental focus and stillness. It’s a triple-edged sword.

Yoga fosters balance because it is itself a balanced practice, allowing you to achieve a wide range of athletic goals, mobility, strength, and flexibility all at the same time. And if you’re an athlete, yoga can bring a new balance to your training by helping you prevent injuries.

Yoga can also provide benefits for specific exercises and activities. With the right combination of poses, you can create flows to target muscle groups and skills that are specific to your sport.

Yoga widens range of motion and increases access to more muscle fibers, allowing for more substantial hypertrophy in any given muscle group. If you supplement your regular lifting routine with yoga classes, you’ll be able to activate ignored sections of muscle.

Deep abdominal breathing is a huge part of yoga, and it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that forces your body to hold onto belly fat. Training yourself to breathe deeply through yoga can reduce stress and cortisol levels in your daily life.

Practicing yoga is lowering your heart rate. More intense yoga routines will challenge your heart and breathing rates, which strengthen your cardiovascular system and can lead to a reduction in overall heart rate. Your breathing volume can also improve, providing more oxygen for your body to work as efficiently as possible.

Include VeroYoga to your fitness routine and experience the results for yourself. All VeroYoga levels are suitable for any fitness program.  Join us @ The Key Biscayne Community Center 10 Village Green Way, Key Biscayne, FL 33149 

The Power of “GENTLE” Yoga

ALL YOGA should be GENTLE”. 

Gentle does not necessarily mean “EASY”

In the path of yoga, giving proper training and discipline, one progresses with time. With continuous practice, not only the body but also the mind as well as the nervous system become stronger.

Once we strengthen the “tangible” aspects of our bodies, then, and only then, the practice of yoga can become more intense, however, ALWAYS GENTLE. Gentle means that one listens to one’s body and approaches the asanas gradually, as if “asking the body for permission” and never imposing. Being gentle is powerful and is the sure way to ongoing progress. One can achieve a very difficult and advanced pose in a “gentle” way.

The fact is that the word “asana”, literally from the Sanskrit, translates as “comfortable pose”, which means that ALL yoga poses, no matter how hard they may initially seem, eventually with practice, they become comfortable. (If you’ve practiced yoga long enough, you know exactly what I mean.)

It is important to know that more than 5000 years ago, the complexity of yoga poses was intended to be transformative, restorative, and healing as preparation to deeper practices – some of which are stillness, and meditation.

However, nowadays, yoga has become a “trend”, a “sport”, and a competition. Who can do the hardest pose? Who can do the most complex inversions? How can I create the most sweat possible?

Therefore, people approach it at as a physical challenge exerting and pushing themselves in order to “get it right”, entering into it with the “no pain -no gain” state of mind – many times hurting their bodies in the process.

On the other hand, many individuals find the so-called beginning practices of yoga too advanced for them so they don’t find the courage to ever begin, and if they do, they get discouraged, scared off, and pretty soon they quit.

Also, our lifestyles demand that we spend a lot of time in a sitting position (in front of a screen) –weakening the skeleton and muscular systems.

Conversely, from a sedentary sitting position, we stand up directly into walking and running (in the case of those who practice sports) –causing a strong high impact to the cold and weak back muscles and its nerve endings.   These are the main reasons why people suffer from back muscle spasms, herniated disks, lower back pain, and other sorts of injuries.

Further, demands related to finances, work, relationships, and other situations, constantly challenge our sense of well-being. Our lives are loaded with stressors. Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as mental disorders like depression or anxiety.

In response, VeroYoga is now offering a “gentle” program that is all inclusive and accessible to everyone.  Gentle yoga classes attempt to meet yoga students “where they are”.

This is a style of yoga for people who don’t have the flexibility, coordination, and strength which photos of yoga poses typically portray.

This is a program that I’ve opened by popular demand as an essential complement to a rigorous athletic training, as a great antidote to stress, as well as for those who are looking to restore physical health,  to achieve emotional stability, and to regain energetic balance.

In Gentle VeroYoga classes, we move the spinal column to its four different directions to re-align the spine and to develop strength and flexibility to the back muscles structure.

We hold poses; we breathe deeply, and transition slowly through the sequence, to achieve a state of freedom from muscle stiffness and mental burdens.

The sequence is designed to reach deep into the finest fibers of the body, promoting blood circulation, oxygenation, and motion to areas that are otherwise, stagnant and dormant. All the organs of the body receive a soft and yet firm compression which stimulates their function and activates the secretion of healthy body fluids. Moreover, because the movements are non-repetitive and involve the whole body, the different centers in the brain and its glands also receive oxygenation and stimulation. I could go on and on because the list of benefits of GENTLE yoga is endless.

These classes are safe, effective, compassionate, in a non-competitive environment that is welcoming to all.

Gentle VeroYoga is intended to be restorative and to support those who need to address muscle tension, stress, injuries, anxiety, insomnia, as well as any other condition. These classes will provide healing and a profound sense of relaxation, benefiting your whole well-being.

CLASS SCHEDULE: Tuesday and Thursday

CLASS TIME: 8:30 – 10:00am

LOCATION: Community Center Village of Key Biscayne
10 Village Green Way
Key Biscayne, FL 33149

MORE INFORMATION305-365-5483

 Stretch and tone the body, improve agility and balance, and draw the focus inward to calm the mind. You will leave these VeroYoga classes feeling renovated, alert and relaxed.