There’s a reciprocal relationship between emotional states and breathing. If we’re not breathing well, we get stressed. And if we’re stressed, we stop breathing well.
By bringing attention to our breath, we can influence our emotions at a physiological level.
A quick and easy way to start with breathwork is with a technique called the physiological sigh.
We naturally do this type of breath about every five minutes. It’s a survival mechanism to keep our lungs properly functioning. The air sacks in our lungs, the alveoli, are like balloons that are wet on the inside. They start to collapse and stick to themselves if we don’t do this sigh. The physiological sigh pops our alveoli open so they can keep taking in air, and more importantly, properly offload carbon dioxide.
To do this breath: Take a long inhale through the nose, pause, take another short inhale through the nose, and then a long exhale out the mouth. Be sure to force all the air out of your lungs on the exhale.
This pattern of breathing helps to reduce our carbon dioxide levels. Our oxygen levels don’t fluctuate much, but our CO2 levels can vary a lot. Even small changes in our CO2 levels can have a significant impact on our breathing and our overall emotional states. High levels of CO2 naturally cause panic states in the brain.
Additionally, breathing deep into our diaphragm increases ventilation and lung expansion. There are very powerful receptors in the lungs that respond to lung volume – how much our lungs are stretching. This has a direct impact on the vagus nerve and our ability to regulate our emotions.
Do the physiological breath three times to take the edge off any stress you might be feeling. It’s a great way to start building physiological resilience to stress as well.
(Dr. Jack Feldman, UCLA)
Cheers to better living -
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