This post I want to talk about holding your breath to produce the lowest respiratory rate and why it is really interesting.
If you’re new to these articles, I’ve treated natural breathing and breathing alike, so now let’s look at breathing. It is really better to learn these techniques from an expert. So I’m not going to go into so much practical detail, but I want to share the information on why it works when it’s well done.
If you’ve ever tried to hold your breath for a long time, you may already know that it can look like torture. There is a panic that sets in when the body decides it is enough. The sympathetic nervous system releases its hormones and, apart from the physiological effects, makes us angry, awake and irritated. This is a sure sign that you are doing it wrong and that it can lead to negativity. It can also be a mild annoyance that gives an energizing positive buzz, but this is still a nice response.
Doing so well produces a feeling of warm calm that can last for many hours. It softens our mood and seems to expand time and space as everything flows. This security is a sure sign of entering parasympathetic territory.
It is now definitely safer and easier to induce the parasympathetic state by natural breathing and uniform breathing. Making the state a common feature is the promise of a dedicated and evolving practice of breathing in pranayama and meditation.
Many people have found that holding their breath acts as a powerful lever to tip the scales of the self-employed. I also think holding your breath gives you more money. You can get a more powerful change in less time, but unlike the gentler methods, it has inherent risks.
It’s good to know what’s wrong with having a clear idea of how it feels to do it right. So let’s look at the bad news first. Then, in practice, it can go wrong in two ways, one is dramatic and the other is oppressive.
If when you hold your breath and feel the struggle you are having what appears to be an allergic reaction and you are emotionally overstimulated, this is a drama. It usually happens more immediately even with a single breath.
Oppression is very different. Practicing many cycles of forced breathing becomes boring instead of exciting. We learn to endure in the wrong way, it’s not really relaxing. The side effect feels like a depression, it can be calm but it does not tolerate well the normal stress that will always give life. The energy is low and complacent.
The secret is to know how to relax while being present. Specifically we want to relax the diaphragm muscle. But keeping everything else relaxed is a must because we even feel our diaphragm.
There are many ways to get the wrong result by ignoring the diaphragm. We can focus our mind on dialogue such as counting or looking at a clock. We can also detach ourselves from visual memory or fantasy. We can tense our body to feel in control.
In the end, though, to get the best result, it doesn’t depend on how long you can hold your breath, but on how long you can relax your diaphragm. When the need to breathe begins to feel strong is when the effect of keeping a diaphragm relaxed gives the deepest glow. But go a little too far and we’ll be amazed.
It works well to say 10 repetitions of long breaths and use a soft deep breath as preparation and recovery for a few minutes to connect the cycles.
The diaphragm is innervated by the phrenic nerve which transmits sensory and motor information connected to multiple sites in the brainstem. There are sympathetic and parasympathetic mechanisms to initiate inhalation.
The big secret, then, is that we learn to avoid sympathetic inhalation. Instead of using the parasympathetic airways originating in the Ambiguous Nucleus to inhibit inhalation. You will be able to see or feel the difference as your heart rate decreases instead of accelerating. It also induces a change in mood and relationship with the environment consciously felt and feels great!
In practice, this means entering consciously to detect the diaphragm just as the body is asking you to breathe. You will have to feel this to learn how to do it and it will be a little awkward. It is a wonderful skill to train the autonomous response.
There is a softer version of breathing which is the classic pranayama approach called Kumbhaka. Either inhale and hold and then exhale or inhale and hold and exhale and hold. There are many stages and levels to increase the time of each phase and emphasize the individual phases.
The difference is that in classical pranayama breathing is maintained during each cycle over and over again starting with maybe 10 cycles and in an Olympic effort that is maintained for many hours. Gradually the body changes in its ability to stay relaxed during this very slow form of breathing.
Mistaking the classic pranayama happens with a blunt and uncompromising approach and produces a depressed mood and hypersensitive personality. This potentially bad effect can be avoided with good practice in a gentle range or by combining other breathing exercises to normalize the autonomic state.
I believe that depressed and socially disconnected affection is caused by the Old Vagal system described by Dr. Stephen Porges ’polyvagal theory. This parasympathetic system does not originate in the ambiguous nucleus and is therefore quite different from the positive vagal tone produced by the diaphragmatic relaxation described above.
I think I should add something here, as I am giving the keys to the first aid kit and I publish it. Long breathing and advanced pranayama should only be practiced after a medical examination and with a specialized guide.
Long breaths have a powerful effect and can cause changes in human physiology. Humans have a very clean little biological trick called a diving reflex that helps us swim underwater by changing our metabolism.
A decisive factor in our ability to hold our breath is our high tolerance to CO2. When we consume most of the oxygen available in our blood, our carbon dioxide levels rise because we do not exhale it.
There are chemical receptors that measure the pH of the cerebrospinal fluid to inform the brain centers that control our breathing when CO2 increases.
A group of these special cells are located in the brainstem near the respiratory centers and have the ability to adapt or desensitize.
Possibly these guys who also communicate with the Ambiguous Nucleus I mentioned earlier are able to help our autonomic system respond to breath holding by becoming very calm to prevent exhalation.
So, to sum up, there are two ways to reduce the frequency of breathing, either by holding your breath for a long time and by repeating your training for carbon dioxide tolerance as free divers. Or to hold your breath continuously during the breathing cycle like Yogi breathing at 1 breath per minute or slower for minutes or hours.
When we do this skillfully we learn to relax the diaphragm and become very tolerant of high carbon dioxide and low pH or acidic blood. Training is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system to create a beautiful serene change in attention, emotion and metabolism. Like meditation, but perhaps more powerful.
The dangers are impacting the system in a sympathetic response where the heart rate increases and we go into stress mode or overly inhibit the whole system by activating the Old Vagal system.
Next, in this series, I will talk about the details of fast breathing to complete the spectrum of breathing frequencies. I will go into a larger description of the polyvagal theory from which I have been extracting in the first three pieces.
#Containment #respiration #Noah #McKenna
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