Wellness — August 5, 2022 at 4:00 pm

Take a Breath

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It gives us life, but have you ever thought about the power breath has over our quality of life? There’s a reason why so many of us were taught to “take a breath” in order to calm down, because as it turns out breath is directly tied to our body’s limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions; in other words, our ingrained fight, flight, or freeze response.

Breath = Choice

Author and TedX speaker, Christian de la Huerta, explains how using breath gives us a choice over what’s known as the Amygdala Hijack. When information is interpreted as threatening by the part of the brain called the amygdala, it actually sends a signal to shut down the thinking brain. This is a good mechanism to have when our physical safety is endangered and we must act not think, however put it in the arena of human interaction where we need to think before we act, and it often leads to saying or doing things we regret. Focusing on breathing helps keep us mindful and in the moment, instead of worrying about what might happen or what has come to pass.

Bettering Yourself with Breath

Taking cleansing breaths, simply being mindful of breath, or partaking in practices like yoga or meditation, which teach you to harness your breath can not only calm us down, but according to a NY Times article Breathe. Exhale. Repeat: The Benefits of Controlled Breathing many studies are finding how breath can relieve stress, which can cause any number of ailments in the human body when carried for a prolonged period of time. Deep, cleansing breaths have been found to not only release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, but this type of breathing done regularly has also been linked to greater focus and performance, reduction in symptoms of anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, depression, and insomnia.

Using Breathwork

Whether you find yourself standing in the midst of stress, or you want to further your work on being mindful and harnessing the power of breath, here are some various types of breathing techniques, ranging from beginner to advanced, to aid at different times, depending on the need:

4-7-8 Breath: A Calming Breath (slowing breathing)

Use to calm mind and nervous system, aids with sleep. A good beginner’s technique when anxious

Sitali: A Cooling Breath (slowing breathing)

Use when it’s hot, when feeling anxious or experiencing heated emotions. Good for beginners

Box Breathing: A Focusing Breath (slowing breathing)

Use to manage stress in demanding situations, or control/quiet the mind before bed. Good for beginners

Bhastrika Breath: A Heating Breath (faster breathing)

Use when it’s cold, when you need a reset, or mental clarity. Not for insomnia. Advanced technique

Kapalabhati: A Detoxifying Breath (faster breathing)

Improves circulation, stimulates digestive system, strengthens respiratory system. Advanced technique

You don’t have to take my word for it. You can try it right now, right where you’re sitting, for yourself. Simply stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and take five slow, deep, cleansing breaths in and out. There. Doesn’t that feel a bit better already?

Written by Melanie Robitaille

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