Why is breath so important?
Our breath is essential to our survival and overall health. Oxygen is necessary for the proper functioning of every cell in our body so it can produce the energy our body needs to carry out various processes.
The process of breathing also helps regulate our body's pH balance and helps in the elimination of toxins and waste products from our body.
Deep breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety by triggering the relaxation response in our body. Certain breathing techniques such as pranayama in yoga have been shown to have numerous health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, improving lung function, and enhancing the immune system.
Overall, our breath is critical for maintaining our physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and it is important to pay attention to our breath and practice deep breathing regularly to support our overall health.
Our breath is closely connected to our nervous system, specifically the autonomic nervous system, which regulates many of our bodily functions that are beyond our conscious control, for example our heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, and breathing.
The autonomic nervous system has two main branches: the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the "fight or flight" response and prepares the body to respond to stress or danger, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which activates the "rest and digest" response and helps the body relax and recover.
Our breath plays a crucial role in regulating these two branches of the autonomic nervous system. When we are under stress or feeling anxious, our breath tends to become shallow and rapid, which activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers the "fight or flight" response.
On the other hand, when we slow down our breath and take deep, diaphragmatic breaths, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system and trigger relaxation and calm.
Research has shown that breathing techniques such as slow, deep breathing, and pranayama can help regulate our autonomic nervous system, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve our overall well-being.
Certain techniques such as alternate nostril breathing have been shown to have a balancing effect on the left and right hemispheres of the brain, promoting cognitive function and emotional stability.
Alternate nostril breathing, also known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama in yoga, is a breathing technique that involves alternating between breathing through the left and right nostrils.
It is a calming and balancing breathing practice that can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and concentration, and promote overall well-being.
Here are the steps to practice alternate nostril breathing:
Find a comfortable seated position with your spine tall and your shoulders relaxed.
Place your left hand on your left knee, with your palm facing up.
Bring your right hand to your face and use your thumb to close your right nostril.
Inhale deeply through your left nostril
Use your ring finger to close your left nostril and release your right nostril.
Exhale slowly through your right nostril
Inhale deeply through your right nostril
Use your thumb to close your right nostril and release your left nostril.
Exhale slowly through your left nostril
Repeat steps 4-11 for several rounds, alternating between left and right nostrils.
By practicing alternate nostril breathing, you can balance the left and right hemispheres of your brain, regulate your nervous system, and promote mental and emotional balance. It is a simple yet effective breathing technique that can be practiced anytime, anywhere, to help you feel more centred, focused, and relaxed.
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