Recent weeks have provided me with the opportunity to engage with clients and friends who’ve shared their struggles with achieving a state of relaxation. In these encounters, I’ve emphasized the significance of breathing and its potential to transform the nervous system, inducing a sense of calm in both mind and body through specific breathing techniques. Witnessing the remarkable outcomes after just a few weeks reaffirms the potency of these methods.
Numerous studies spotlight the efficacy of coherent breathing, encapsulating breathing exercises that foster diminished stress levels, heightened relaxation, and enhanced attentiveness. A noteworthy study led by Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, a Neuropsychologist based in New York and a faculty member at Columbia University, delves into the implications for individuals dealing with ADHD. Hafeez explains that during periods of stress, the symptoms of ADHD can exacerbate, leading to detrimental outcomes like fatigue and hypertension. The research underscores how coherent breathing interventions empower individuals to alleviate stress, augment relaxation, and bolster focus.
Delving into the crux of the matter, one wonders: Can breathing truly wield such immense influence? Can a shift in our breathing patterns fundamentally alter the workings of the brain? The Havard Business Review’s research “Why Breathing Is So Effective at Reducing Stress,” authored by Emma Seppälä, Christina Bradley, and Michael R. Goldstein, provides compelling insights into the intricate relationship between breathing and emotional states. The manner in which we breathe, it appears, can serve as a catalyst for either anxiety or relaxation, entwining breathing patterns with distinct emotional landscapes.
Delving further, the research unearths the mechanics behind this phenomenon. Altering the cadence of one’s breath serves as a signal for relaxation. It engenders a deceleration of heart rate and the activation of the vagus nerve—a neural pathway extending from the brain stem to the abdomen. This nerve constitutes a core component of the parasympathetic nervous system, governing the body’s “rest and digest” functions in contrast to the sympathetic nervous system responsible for triggering the “fight or flight” responses. Stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system initiates a journey towards tranquility, fostering improved mental clarity and rational thinking.
In essence, the way we breathe and our mindfulness in this process assumes paramount significance. Breathing, a fundamental act we habitually overlook, emerges as a lifeline—the essence of life itself. As Sadhguru humorously remarks, if humans were tasked with the responsibility of breathing, the world would be bereft of life. Such a sentiment draws us to introspect and become more attuned to our breath—an aspect of existence we often take for granted. As we navigate our daily lives, it’s an invitation to heighten our awareness of this elemental act, recognizing its potential to reshape our well-being.