We generally tend to underestimate the importance of breathing and its role in our well-being. However, proper breathing helps to manage stress and even depression. Here is a testimony explaining the power of a breathing exercise, very easy to practice.
Some time ago, I witnessed a very interesting mind-body connection between an expert in meditation and a writer which referred to practice a simple breathing exercise at the beginning of each day.
During this connection, the writer wanted to know the usefulness of this exercise and how these breathing techniques would influence the course of the day. I still remember that conversation very well and the skepticism of the writer… This connection made me think of an interview I conducted with Dr. Andrew Weil for my film, The Connection.
Dr. Weil is a renowned specialist in the United States, who built his reputation with an integrated approach to the medicine, based on the activation of internal healing mechanisms, which prove to be an alternative to the conventional medicine and surgery. Dr. Weil had explained to me that if he had to limit his medical recommendations to a single board, it would be learning to breath. This statement from a leading specialist had me so much questioned at the time, especially when you know the pharmaceutical, surgical and nutritional means currently available to us.
Here is a passage of this long interview where Dr. Weil speaks of the power of breathing exercises:
“I did a lot of research on the relationship between the body and mind, and when it came to illness, I used to practice breathing exercises consciously throughout the day. This practice requires concentration and a bit of time but it was really necessary for me to handle the daily stress I was experiencing.
While writing an article about the benefits of meditation, I wanted to know if a clinical study showing the virtues of breathing mindfully health had not already been done … And scientists had found that the Yoga breathing techniques had incredible virtues on people with bronchial asthma, as well as slow breathing helps to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Also, another form of Yoga breathing, taught to veterans in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, who were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, helped them reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression…
Another example reminiscent of the complex relationship between body and mind: I was surprised to discover the role breathing played on our emotions. In fact, four distinct emotional states could be identified (joy, anger, fear and sadness) following the breathing pattern. Scientists have gone further in their research by teaching breathing methods to manage emotions.
Regarding the link between breathing and health, the most edifying research on which I came across was conducted by the scientists at UCLA. This study was conducted on 45 people subjected to very intense stress conditions, with depression, dementia, and Alzheimer disease. One group practiced yoga for 12 minutes every day (with singing and focused on breathing) for eight weeks.
The second group was to unwind and relax in a quiet place, keeping their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music for 12 minutes. The results showed that the daily practice of yoga exercises reduces significantly the symptoms related to depression, while improving mental health and cognitive functioning.
In addition, this practice results in a slowdown of cell aging and a reduction in genes involved in inflammation cells.”
This study is of great interest because these researchers demonstrated the power of breathing (12 minutes) combined with singing, every day for eight weeks. The breathing exercise had a positive impact on their genes and the aging process. I realized that there are not many people who will be interested in yogic breathing exercises and singing (in case you want to try, it is Kirtan Kriya meditation techniques).
But if the testimony had you interested, here is a simple breathing exercise that is ideal for beginners and will reduce stress and anxiety:
- Place your thumb on your right nostril
- Inhale slowly through the left nostril
- Place your index finger on your left nostril and release the thumb
- Exhale through the right nostril
- Inhale slowly through the right nostril
- Place your thumb on the right nostril, release the index finger
- Exhale through the left nostril
- Repeat this for a few minutes.
This simple breathing exercise will help to regulate the nervous system. The objective of this alternate breathing method is to balance the emotions and harmonize the right brain (related to intuitions and senses) with the left brain (related to the logic).