Breathing is the process that moves air in and out of the lungs. It allows the diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the external environment into and out of the blood.
“Breathing” sometimes refers to the equivalent process that utilizes other respiratory organs such as gills in fish and spiracles in certain arthropods. For organisms with lungs, breathing is also called pulmonary ventilation. It consists of inhalation (breathing in) and exhalation (breathing out).
Breathing is one part of physiological respiration required to sustain life. Aerobic organisms (all animals, most plants, and many micro-organisms) require oxygen at the cellular level to release energy. It is done by metabolizing energy-rich molecules such as fatty acids and glucose. This is often referred to as cellular respiration.
Breathing is only one of the processes that delivers oxygen to where it is needed in the body and removes excess carbon dioxide. After breathing, the next process in this chain of events is the transport of these gases throughout the body by the circulatory system, and then their uptake or release from the respiring cells. Breathing fulfills another vital function: that of regulating the pH of the body’s extracellular fluids. It is, in fact, this homeostatic function which determines the rate and depth of breathing. The medical term for normal relaxed breathing is eupnea.
At the end of each exhalation the adult human lungs still contain 2.5 – 3.0 liters of air, termed the functional residual capacity (FRC). Breathing replaces only about 15% of this volume of gas with moistened ambient air for each breath. This ensures that the composition of the FRC changes very little during the breathing cycle and remains significantly different from the composition of the ambient air. The partial pressures of the blood gases flowing through the alveolar capillaries equilibrate with the partial pressures of the gases in the FRC.
Breathing is the basis of any meditation and certainly where we begin the Journey into Tranquility method. Breathing starts the process of shifting the mind and body into oneness with each other. There are different styles and types of breathing: for relaxation, digestion calmness, healing, calming the nervous system, and breathing to activate the kundalini, your body, and your muscles.
What is Meditation Breathing?
Meditation breathing calms the nervous system and brings the body into focus with the mind. This type of breathing is done by inhaling and exhaling through the nose all the way into the abdomen.
Inhaling and exhaling through the nose is a style of breathing that also relaxes the digestive system and improves respiratory function. For the body to function properly your cells, blood and organs need oxygen. So, for oxygen to reach all cells and organs, breathing needs to be fully taken into the lungs and further into the abdomen.
Breathing is the basics of meditation
Breathing is where meditation begins and ends. Breathing begins the process of self-awareness. To focus on your breath is the start of bringing your awareness to the body and to find peace within.
Only when you begin to intermittently control your breath can you start to calm your body and allow your mind to relax and refocus. Trying to take someone into a creative visualization technique or asking them to focus on nothing before the central nervous system is fully relaxed is nearly impossible.
Breathing exercises should be the first three-five minutes minimum of every practice. The length of time needed is dependent on how a person reacts to the exercises. If it seems they can’t focus on their breath, they will need additional time. However, for those experienced in breath work, less time may be required for their mind and body to fully relax.
A recommended 2 to 10 minutes a day of calm breathing exercises is enough to reduce stress in a person’s physical responses.
Breathing exercises allow us to lead our clients into the area of refocusing the mind. And that allows them to Journey. Even if clients cannot get their minds to refocus, the exercises will improve their immune system and cardiovascular responses as well as reduce their levels of stress.
Focused breathing is a meditation within itself and can be used with people who have limited time or are working to get in the habit of meditating. This is a great place for them to start. This is also a good meditation for you to utilize as an instructor when starting clients out or to shorten the length of a guided session.
What you need to know about breathing
There are several different styles of breathing people use during meditation and yoga. Those styles include:
It is important to note there is a right and wrong way to breathe to calm the central nervous system. Most of the population during their waking lives breathe the wrong way. In the end, this keeps the body in a state of fight or flight response.
Fight or flight originated in cavemen days as a response the body used to react when in danger. Our brain communicated to the body that there was harm, and the body would send a response throughout the nervous system to stand and “fight” whatever endangered us. Conversely, it would order “flight” to run away from the danger. In flight mode, cortisol pumps into the nervous system allowing the body to run faster to escape the present danger.
In today’s world, every time our body deals with stress, “fight or flight” is activated. The release of a harmful number of hormones and cortisol into the system triggers a fight or flight response in our nervous system. Unfortunately, the way many of us breathe doesn’t help to calm this type of system reaction. Rather, it actually adds to the stress in our body. It produces more cortisol and leaves the body in a reactionary, stressed-out state.
Cortisol is a hormone that runs throughout your body, creating an adrenaline rush through your blood stream. Cortisol can be destructive to your health if it pumps consistently – meditation is like a reset on the cortisol pump.