Among all natural self-healing techniques, breath work is unique because breathing is one of the fe the only conscious means of improving, maintaining, and repairing the other unconsciously run systems of the body. Heart rate, blood pressure, circwulation, digestion, hormone secretion, and even our mental and emotional states all can be controlled, regulated, and healed through proper breathing practices. Ancient yogis knew this, and modern research and science agree. Once the body is healthy, nourished and calmed through proper breath work, the body can soar to its full potential.
Belly breathing —in conjunction with nasal breathing — is the most efficient way to achieve optimal health. Many people who breath through the mouth too much are also shallow chest breathers. Poor posture and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to this lazy, ineffective and unhealthy way of breathing. Instead, focus on breathing through the nose and into the belly.
The breathing muscle is the diaphragm, which should rise and fall with each breath, producing a belly movement. This movement massages the stomach and vital organs of digestion, promoting good elimination, another way to remove toxins from the body. This type of breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that starts in the brain stem and extends, down below the head to the neck, chest and abdomen, where it contributes to the innervation of the organs of the body. Besides output to the various organs in the body, the vagus nerve conveys sensory information about the state of the body’s organs to the central nervous system.
One reason people do not utilize the nose for optimal breathing is that they are chronically congested. The age-old practice of Jala Neti, nasal irrigation, is the answer. This practice is thousands of years old, adapted from Eastern medicine. It is as common in the yoga community as brushing your teeth!
Proper breathing oxygenates the body and helps eliminate free radicals by removing pollutants, toxins and allergens. Accumulation of toxins takes place all the time and it is necessary to find safe, natural, non-addictive ways to rid the body of them and restore cells to normal. Nasal irrigation tools, such as neti pots, are a great way to accomplish this. This non-pharmacological therapy involves rinsing the nasal passages with a saltwater solution, helping to rid the nose of allergens and mucus. Nasal saline irrigation has been shown to be a beneficial therapy in the treatment and prevention of sinus infection and allergic rhinitis, and may even reduce the need for antibiotics in those people prone to sinus infections. Using a neti pot will leave you feeling invigorated, will decrease drowsiness, and will balance and strengthen the nervous system.
Poses to promote optimized breathing
Here are some easy yoga poses and breathing practices to help open your ribcage and achieve optimum breath:
•Triangle Pose and Revolved Triangle Pose
•Reclining Spinal Twists
•Breath of Fire
A Few quotes
“Nasal breathing (as opposed to mouth breathing) increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes ” Swift, Campbell, McKown 1988 Oronasal obstruction, lung volumes, and arterial oxygenation. Lancet 1, 73-75
“The internal nose not only provides around 90% of he respiratory system air-conditioning requirement but also recovers around 33% of exhaled heat and moisture. Elad, Wolf, Keck 2008 Air-conditioning in the human nasal cavity. Respiratory Physioolgy and Neurobiology 163. 121-127
“The nasal cycle, which is part of an overall body cycle, is controlled by the hypothalamus. Sympathetic dominance on one side causes nasal vasoconstriction of the ipsilateral turbinate, while parasympathetic dominance on the other causes nasal vasoconstriction of the contralateral turbinate. Increased airflow through the right nostrii is correlated to increased left brain activity and enhanced verbal performance, where as increased airflow through the left nostril is associated with increased right brain activity and enhanced spatial performance.”
Shannahoff-Kalsa, 1993 . The ultradian rhythm of alternating cerebral hemispheric activity. International journal of Neuroscience 70, 285-298
“During exercise, nasal breathing causes a reduction in FEO2, indicating that on expiration the percentage of oxygen extracted from the air by the lungs is increased and an increase in FECO2, indicating an increase in the percentage of expired air that is carbon dioxide”. Morton, King, Papalia 1995 Comparison of maximal oxygen consumption with oral and nasal breathing. Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 27, 51-55|
For some evidence, check out the videos below. During workshops, we show all of the proofs that these breathing techniques have significant health effects and we practiced different varieties.