Stress, anxiety and depression can result in the malfunction of breathing due to our emotional mood or mindset. Breathing is an involuntary action of a physiological process to take in the air and utilise the oxygen on inhalation and expel the carbon dioxide on exhalation.
There are four types of breathing with the processes in the body and equate to different muscles, organs and glands. The four breathing types are; diaphragmatic, costal, eupnoea, and hyperpnoea. Each type works with slightly different processes in the body:
- Diaphragmatic breathing helps strengthen your diaphragm muscle and engages down on an inhale, and releases upon an exhale. Belly breathing is different since when you expand your belly, you are sending the air pressure down towards your feet.
- Costal breathing is an automatic and usually unconscious movement of the ribs and the intercostal muscles in-between the ribs as the air is drawn into the lungs for inhalation and exhalation for the purpose of oxygenating the blood and exhaling carbon dioxide, the ribs expand and contract.
- Eupnoea is relaxed breathing post-inspiration, inspiration, and expiration and innervated by the phrenic nerve and phrenic motor neurons located within the ventral horn of the cervical spinal cord. When you breathe in, airflow goes into the lungs largely due to the contraction of the diaphragm.
- Hyperpnoea usually occurs during strenuous exercise and the body takes in a larger volume of air than normal.
The power of the voice and sound comes from being able to breathe properly. The article "White Stone Carillon by Don Tolman 2000." White Stone Carillon (WSC) is a crystal bowl that has been set at the key of G to Gb/F# which is known as the Key of David from Biblical times. The WSC bowl is used for healing and how sound and breath-work helps "cellular laundering" to use the pentatonic scale and your voice with the bowl, to amplify the sound and promote health and healing. It was used in the ancient days in a prayer circle to elevate and ascend closer to God transitioning from C to G to F#. F# is known as The Trumpet of God. F# note on the physical body sits between the heart chakra and the throat chakra it is the link in-between.
If I'm doing a virtual session I use a set of parameters of breathing techniques, the visual expression and sound and the range of difficulty in breathing in and out alerts me to different actions in the body function and chakras. If you don't breathe properly your calcium and potassium levels can also be compromised.
The fight or flight response mechanism is activated from the primal centres of the brain, with the amygdala and the limbic system, for our innate survival mode that switches on, due to a response to fear. The SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) is responsible for the ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) to switch on the fight and flight response and produces norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) to get your heart pumping. In fight response the energy goes to your arms, to defend yourself and fight. In the flight response, the energy goes to your legs to run. Chronic stress and anxiety can be associated with the SNS have switched on if it doesn't switch off into PSNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System), and stays on, causing many issues of today with anxiety, stress and even PTSD. The PSNS never goes back into rest and digest mode and relaxation.
Do you recall how you eat a big meal, then you feel tired?
Well, your body is in PSNS to rest and digest.
How do I switch off the SNS and the Fight and flight response, if it's stuck on autopilot and switch on the PSNS?
Some ways to help reduce stress include:
- Practice meditation
- Relaxation techniques
- Talk a walk in nature
- Deep breathing from the diaphragm
- Practice gratitude every day
- Focus on a task that soothes and calms you
- Focus on a beautiful thought to change your mindset
- Practice yoga, qi gong or tai chi
- Get a massage
- Play with animals or children
- Spend five minutes focusing on your breathing if you can't leave your desk, zone out from everything else around you
The relaxation responses that occur when you slow down your breathing, and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth include:
- Reduce and lower your blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduce stress hormones in the blood
- Reduce feelings of stress
- Reduce anxiety levels
- Help balance oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood
- Improve immune system function
- Increase physical energy
- Increase calm feelings and well being
"If we're breathing slowly, it actually turns on the anti-stress response." Elissa Epel, Ph.D.
In conclusion, practicing a few different breathing techniques in your daily life and focusing on a daily routine of 5-minute increments on awakening, morning tea or lunchtime and early evening will help you lower your stress. I would also definitely include at least two times per day practice of slow deep breathing. Breathe well and Namaste.