In the days of undue stress, I wonder how many of us are walking around, shallow breathing as we ‘react’ to every trigger facing us; as there is no shortage I might add. We don’t realize the connection of shallow breathing and hair trigger reactions. Sounds like a concept related to shadow boxing, huh? It may be a good time to recognize the ancient Kemetic concept of ‘Ma’at’. Ma’at includes homeostasis, justice and all that is equivalent, yet defined as balance. A sense of balance is easily attainable with little effort. It only requires a technique called’ voluntary breathing’, and this type of breathing is simply the conscious breath.
The breath is considered the foundation of life, or ‘breath of life’. Some might call it the medium by which we maintain life, or our life-force. In Sanskrit, our life-force is the ‘Prana’. In Chinese culture, this is ‘Chi’. The breath can also be described as the one action we do voluntarily, and involuntarily. In other words we can breathe without even thinking about it, or not. This is what happens under stress. Although we breathe involuntarily anyway, under certain conditions we tend to constrict the process and therefore block the life-force in certain vital areas of the physical and emotional body.
A Dove Press Journal publication featured a study with 30 participants with mild to moderate COPD. The study was to provide conclusions for potential usage of a respiratory device. The participants were observed for oxidative stress, cytokine response, and pulmonary function. The cytokine response is one related to oxidative stress and is an inflammatory response in the lungs we should all be familiar with by now. They were divided into two groups. One was asked to engage in a slow deep breathing technique (SDBT) and the other a fast deep breathing technique (FDBT). The objective of the spirometry device is to increase lung muscle strength.
The conclusion proved the device, as per instructions, was effective in increasing lung muscle strength; however, it was the FDBT vs. the SDBT technique that made the study a success. The participants who used the FDBT were able to walk further at the end of the 30 day study. There was no notable difference in pulmonary function.(Leelarungrayub, J. et, al. 2018). The good news is, the average person can achieve the same results without the device.
Meditation has become more widely practiced to include different forms and preparatory aids. The conscious breath is one such aid, and can be of benefit in relaxation and initiating the meditation practice. Pranayama is only one form of technique or ‘yoga breathing’. “Yoga breathing can be considered a form of meditation also. Moreover, certain breathing practices prepare the mind for deeper meditation. (Brown & Gerbarg p. 56). Other aids include guided practice with a facilitator, singing bowls, and music, among others.
Most of us can hardly close our eyes and sit quietly in one place for five minutes; not-to-mention clearing the mind of racing thoughts. It takes practice starting with five minutes and building with the conscious breath. Most people give up the first time or two. Here’s where aids are helpful to relax from the stress we all carry. “Trying to meditate while under severe stress sometimes magnifies the subjective sense of distress”. (Brown & Gerbarg,p. 56). Concentration on technique and counting each breath helps to center our focus and reduce these racing thoughts.
Ultimately, we find the conscious breath not only useful in preparing our bodies and minds for meditation through relaxation, it also builds muscle strength in the lungs, in addition to reducing stress. It is recommended we ask ourselves three questions with three breaths anytime throughout the day we feel the need to center ourselves. Where Am I? Who Am I? What Am I Doing? The result of this exercise should be an instant sense of balance and clarity.
Sheila T. Zimmerman ’21
|Leelarungrayub, J., Puntumetakul, R., Sriboonreung, T., Pothasak, Y., & Klaphajone, J. (2018). Preliminary study: comparative effects of lung volume therapy between slow and fast deep-breathing techniques on pulmonary function, respiratory muscle strength, oxidative stress, cytokines, 6-minute walking distance, and quality of life in persons with COPD. International journal of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 13, 3909–3921. https://doi.org/10.2147/COPD.S181428|
Brown, Richard P. and Gerbarg, Patricia L., M.D, “Yoga Breathing , Meditation, and Longevity, Regeneration, and Optimal Health”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Vol. 1172)p.56 & 57., https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=TMJRynOxsisC&oi=fnd&pg=PA54&dq=stress+release+conscious+breathing&ots=K97lpb2JrV&sig=9C7gFj14V-Ze0fQcG8X9g4Y8Dag#v=onepage&q=stress%20release%20conscious%20breathing&f=false
Tobe, Masaru, and Saito, Shirgeru, (2020, August 9), Analogy between classical zen/yoga and modern respiratory therapy; Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists; Journal of Anesthesia https://doi.org/10.1007/s00540-020-02840-5