Relaxing the body calms the mind. Calming the mind harmonizes bodily function, feels comfortable, and enables us to breathe more freely and easily.
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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Part 1: Ayurveda and Preventative Health
Our country is saddled with an incredible amount of chronic disease. We spend millions, no wait, billions on treatment of preventable conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. As we toil away day after day we also seem to be increasingly susceptible to what I refer to as "quality of life" diseases. These are things like insomnia, stress, hormonal fluctuations and mood swings just to name a few. The question is why if we spend so much money on making ourselves better and billions on vitamins and supplements why we still seem to be faced with the same chronic diseases as we have been for the past 30 years? I'll tell you why-- if you forget the lessons of the past you'll be doomed to make mistakes in the future. I would argue that the field of Ayurveda is that lesson from the past.
Many people do not realize that disease happens slowly over time secondary to a lack of attention to preventative systems in the body that are meant to keep disease away. Now as to why there's a lack of attention to those systems well really the reasons are from the ceiling to the floor based on our current modern lifestyle. Part of it is because overall the majority of healthcare providers do not have a tremendous amount of training for counseling patients in a preventative disease lifestyle. If you combine that with a lack of allotted time during an office visit for preventative education and lack of reimbursement for comprehensive preventative health then its no wonder most of us succumb eventually to one or more disease states.
So let's try to put all of this together. If the majority of us want to stay healthy and prevent disease but the majority of people who are set forth to provide healthcare do not have basic training in preventive disease prevention and techniques then how exactly is a majority of America supposed to engage and prevent disease? I'll tell you how. You personally have to go back and discover lessons that you may have forgotten or may have never been taught. And that is where you can find the importance of the field of medicine refer to as Ayurvedic medicine.
Think of it as when you typically go to the doctor you are going there with a problem. If you have a problem then that means that the disease has already manifested itself to the point where you have developed symptoms. Therefore you haven't prevented any disease in the first place because there you are sitting in the waiting room of your doctor's office hoping for some type of treatment so that you can feel better. Ayurvedic medicine is geared at keeping you out of the waiting room with a disease in the first place. Now to understand how this field of medicine works on the preventative health spectrum that I think it's best to review it in small chunks so that you can first digest the structure of this field of medicine as it is unfamiliar to most people who are most experienced with traditional Western medicine. By traditional Western medicine I'm referring to the type of medicine where you wait until you are sick and then you go to the doctor and the doctor prescribe something or gives you some type of device in order to make those symptoms go away and then you you don't come back until you have some other type of problem. Ayurvedic medicine is particularly concerned with prevention of disease so this is the type of medicine that at a minimum we can all incorporate to improve and prevent disease.
The purpose of this and the next article in this series of article will explain in common terms some basic concepts of Ayurveda that you can use in your day to day life, what the origins are of this type of practice and how it relates to Western medicine, and how you can start to experience some of the benefits of this particular type of medicine. These articles will go over some of the basic principles, how you can determine your dosha and what are some common recommendations to balance your dosha so that you can start to activate some of the preventive and healing mechanisms that are already pre-built in your body on a cellular level. Now if you have already in the diseased state which means that you are already experiencing symptoms Ayurveda can still help to resolve possibly some of those manifestations however you have to always consider the advice of your personal physician who is treating you in regards to what particular steps you should take for your health care conditions. We encourage you to subscribe to our blog so that you will get a notification for the next article in this series -Ayurveda 101.
To take a quiz to start to figure out your own unique composition according to Ayurveda click here.