The Science of Breath: A Practical Guide & Exercise for Optimal Health
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
Friend: “Just breathe and everything will be fine!”
Me: “Screw you!”
How many times have you heard “Just calm down and take some deep breaths!” and your immediate reaction is to punch that person in the face? You know they mean well, but you can’t seem to wrap your emotional mind around the concept at that moment. Well, they are coming from a caring, scientifically accurate place. Are you ready to discover the science of breath with this practical guide?
Breath is a physical form of prana or “life force.” Integrating body, mind, and soul, the inspiration is a direct link to the universal consciousness matrix. We, as humans, have a highly advanced brain with a prefrontal cortex with the capability to discern, reason integrates, and behave in a certain way. These thought processes turned chemical reactions can be altered just by changing our quality of breathing.
The Foundation of Breath
The brain is seen as a sophisticated 3 lb sponge governing the nervous system and every action and thought in our body. It utilizes 20-25% of our glucose and oxygen to keep it up and running. (Long Health Institute 2016) For the trillions of neurological connections in our brains and the electrical output it provides, it seems too simple to breathe to have any substantial effect on its functioning.
This is why most people disregard the power of the breath and do not truly understand the science of breath. The more is better approach is not the case here. The breath is foundational to our being, and working from the foundation up on a subtle level will amplify into profound effects on the whole being system above and beyond.
Think of the nervous system as an electrical, chemical, and quantum circuitry of interconnected wires always in communication with the internal and external environment to maintain some balance. Our nervous system is comprised of a Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). The PNS is made up of a Somatic Nervous System (SNS) and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The ANS can be separated into the parasympathetic and sympathetic state.
Parasympathetic & Sympathetic State
The parasympathetic state is our rest, digest and repair state — slowed heart rate, smooth blood flow, energy is conserved, integration of nutrients and information, internal maintenance of tissues, and accompanied by deeper diaphragmatic breaths. On the other end of the spectrum is the sympathetic state — flight, fight, or freeze. When in this state, the main goal is survival and energy expenditure. Our blood pressure increases, our heart rate quickens, upper chest shallow breathing prevails, and our blood moves towards our extremities to supply our muscles to get ready to run from potential the danger. In the wild, this is a great way not to get eaten by a predator.
To be on the safe side of our natural default, it prepares for the fear. Spending too much time in this survival mode, we will begin to breakdown. We find ourselves being chronically tired, angry, sick, overweight, burnt out with restless sleep patterns, mood disorders, and an all-around lack of vitality. This triggers our friends and family to observe our lackluster for life and say, “Hey, breathe. Everything will be fine.
Instead of flipping them the bird or distancing yourself into isolation, we can use the BREATH to hack our Autonomic System and increase our vibration from that of lack and resentment to abundance and gratitude. That’s why it is so essential to understand the science of breath in the first place!
The breath can be controlled both consciously and subconsciously, and this allows us to tap into the ANS. The entire time you have been reading this article, you have been breathing. Now take a moment and focus on your breath. Can you inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four? Congratulations. You just cracked the code. When we control the breath, we can adjust our mind-body communication to match our desired being. The body and mind have a two-way communication system, and when they are in coherence, we are in coherence. By slowing down and taking deep diaphragmatic breaths, we are activating the parasympathetic nerve receptors in the lower third of our lungs, sending signals to the brain telling the body we are safe, we are love, and we can be calm. When our head and our heart are in coherence we:
Feel at ease,
Boost our immune system,
Reduce stress hormones,
Oxygenate our blood,
Are more caring towards ourselves and others.
A daily breathing practice of focused, intentional breathing is a simple yet powerful way to begin to train yourself to breathe in such a way for optimal health. The science of breath will always guide and motivate you on this journey.
A Breathing Exercise for Optimal Health
Start with finding a comfortable seated position or lying down with your hands on your stomach.
Close your eyes and breathe life into your hands for a count of 4, then exhale and allow the stomach to retract for a count of 4. If possible, slowly build up the length of your inhale and exhale. Repeat six times. Take a moment after and float in the sensation of how you feel.
Just like anything else, the more your practice, the more comfortable and more automatic it becomes. Soon, you won’t have to think about taking deep juicy breaths for the 26,000 breaths you take in a day. Your body and mind will already be conditioned to get the most out of each sweet air exchange to further your connection to the universal consciousness from which we are made.
Breathe With Casey. Book a session to find a daily routine of breathing that will enhance your health and obtain your goals.