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Conscious breathing

The importance of conscious breathing

Friday, October 12, 2012 by: Joe Jennings
Tags: conscious breathing, relaxation, breath

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(NaturalNews) It is common knowledge that we can live for three months without food before we die and we can live three days without water before we die, but we can only live for three minutes without breathing. There is a huge amount of attention placed on what food and drink we place in our body, how they are put in and how our body, and even mind, responds to these stimuli. We all know we are what we eat and that certain ways of eating and certain foods and drinks act more or less like slow poison within our bodies. Yet, if we can last so long without these inputs, but cannot last more than three minutes without breathing, it is clear that breathing is a much more fundamental activity and as such, deserves more attention.

With the rise of meditation, mindfulness and particularly pranayamas (breathing exercises), it is becoming common knowledge that the breath can influence how we feel. We've all experienced increased breathing rate and erratic rhythms when in states of fear, anxiety or anger and now many people understand that it is a very chicken-and-egg situation with the breath and how we feel. In other words, it is possible to change how we feel by changing how we're breathing. But how far does this go?

A fairly new scientific field, respiratory psychophysiology, hopes to find out. One area of interest is in people suffering from panic attacks. After studying the mechanisms behind this issue, it was noticed that hyperventilation preceded palpitations, anxiety and other related symptoms. It was thus theorized that the breathing pattern was the cause of the symptoms.

Related to this subject is the rise in interest in chronic stress and its contribution to disease. It is now known that stress plays a major role in the formation of many, if not all, disease states. It has also been shown that breathing exercises are one of the easiest and most effective ways of taking us out of sympathetic arousal and into parasympathetic arousal, the relaxation response. Therefore, it can be extrapolated that incorrect breathing can lead to a variety of diseases. Dr. L. C. Lum certainly believes this, stating, "futile breathing has profound effect on bodily functions and frequently results in chronic ill health." He then goes on to list a over 20 symptoms related to inadequate breathing, including angina, fatigue, panic attacks, anxiety, stomach upsets and irritable bowel syndrome. Optimal Breathing take this further, listing 130 symptoms related to poor breathing, including stroke, allergies, addictions, postural issues and many other physical and psychological issues.

Whilst this field is still in its infancy, it is clear that the importance of how we breathe must be taken seriously if we desire impeccable health and a balanced and happy emotional life.


Laszlo et al (1997) - Respiratory Psychophysiology of Panic Disorder: Three Respiratory Challenges in 98 Subjects. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 154, p1557-1565.
Ley and Timmons - Behavioural and Psychological Approaches to Breathing Disorders.
Optimal Breathing - www.breathing.com

About the author:
Joe Jennings is an experienced Rebirthing Breathwork practitioner who was trained by the founder Leonard Orr and Fanny Van Laere.
He has written a small book about his first experiences with the breath as well as a number of articles which have been published in various magazines.
He is currently the co-ordinator of Rebirthing Breathwork International in the UK and a committee member of the British Rebirthing Society.
He has begun a large scale study into the physiological and psychological effects of Rebirthing Breathwork.
He gives private sessions and teaches in the UK.
For more information please visit www.RebirthingInternational.co.uk

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