Breath is the source of prana, or life force, and among the most basic of all human functions. Breathing consists of two phases: inhalation and exhalation. When you inhale, the diaphragm—a dome-shaped muscle separating the lungs from the abdominal cavity—contracts. This allows your lungs to expand and fill with air. On the exhale, the diaphragm returns to its normal position, air is expelled, and the lungs shrink back to their original shape.
The respiratory center of the brain stem involuntarily controls your breathing without your having to think about it. Although breathing is an automatic and often mindless process, its implications for your well-being are profound.
Breath and the Nervous System
When the body is relaxed, breathing is typically long, smooth, and slow. You may notice that your jaw loosens, shoulders relax, and stomach rises and falls with each breath. This state is governed by the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows your heart rate and stimulates digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system is associated with a rest-and-digest state of being. When your body is at rest, it directs energy toward necessary functions such as sleep and fat burning.
Inversely, rapid breathing is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which makes your heart beat faster and increases your blood pressure. This is the fight-or-flight center of the body. Think of a time when you have been afraid. You may have felt your chest tighten, and breath becoming shallow and rapid—centered in your chest. You may notice this type of shallow breathing with some conditions such as chronic stress or heart disease, pneumonia, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Stress, and more specifically the storage of stress energy held in our bodies, produces a diminished breathing pattern. Over time, this can be particularly problematic. Network Care, and its partner work of Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI) are modern techniques that assist the body to release detrimental patterns. We are now able to integrate the science of western medicine with the wisdom of the ancient eastern medicine. Speak with me to learn more about this. You can breathe much easier with just a little practice.