Many people do not realize the importance and connection that their breath has to both the brain and the heart. Because of this connection breathwork can be a powerful and accessible tool for all to use not only for better balance but also to help manage conditions such as anxiety, depression, other mood disorders, fatigue, stress, diabetes and heart disease. This isn't just conjecture or theory either! There have been quite a few studies recently that provide an evidence based connection between the breath and the body's ability to regulate the body's autonomic nervous system.
Think of the autonomic nervous system as a conductor of the body that helps to regulate signals and impulses. The two main players of this system are like the reins and the crop for a horse. One system drives things faster and the other system slows things down. These two systems work together day and night to control all types of things such as how quickly we are thinking to our ability to go to sleep. In medical terms we call these reins the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. What medical research tells us is that different breathing exercises and techniques have a unique way to tap into these systems so that you can control them and that when you tap into that control your body reaps the benefits.
The primary reward of becoming more aware of your breath comes in the engagement of the parasympathetic system to start to slow things down. Think about it- all day we are on the go or have something to do or see or text or post ALL THE TIME! That leads to a constant feeding of the sympathetic system which places a strain on the supportive glandular network which can place your hormonal system completely in a whirlwind! When you engage in breathwork the parasympathetic system (or the "reins") start to take over which slows your systems down and allows your body to "take a break". This process of "breaking" is actually fundamental in the process of healing and repair to the body.
So now that you understand one of the true purposes of your breath the challenge becomes to start to become more aware of your breathing pattern. Consider signing up for a breathwork class or seminar in your community or sign up for a yoga class and pay particular attention to the breathing patterns taught during the session. Your breath is always with you, it is free and you don't have to go anywhere to do it. Take the time to be aware of where your breath is and make your breath work for you and not against you.
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Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2016 Feb;124(2):65-70. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1565062. Epub 2015 Nov 17.