THE SCIENCE OF SYNCING THE BREATH
THE SIMPLEST PARTS OF OUR EXISTENCE ARE THE MOST INFLUENTIAL IN SHAPING HOW WE DEVELOP AS HUMANS. EATING, SLEEPING, MOVING, BREATHING- ALL OF THESE SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACT OUR WELLBEING EVERY SINGLE DAY. OUR BREATH IS PERHAPS THE MOST TAKEN FOR GRANTED OF ALL BODILY FUNCTIONS, YET THE MOST CRUCIAL.
“Breathing” is the entirely unconscious and automatic process of pushing air in and out of our lungs. It is the core of our existence, the supplier of life. The more aware we are of our breath and the more we adopt control over it in circumstances, the more we can learn to navigate and rise above the stresses of the world around and within us.
Many of us with a yoga or meditation practice will have come to understand the benefits of syncing the breath with the mind or the body. But what about those moments when you can’t get yourself to a yoga class?
When we set out to design ALTRUIS X as a tool to help you find balance and stillness in modern life, we realised we needed to include a breathing exercise that was fit for any moment. Here’s some of the research that went into building this feature.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT
When we encounter a stressful or frightening situation, our fight or flight response is triggered. Our bodies prepare themselves for the worst by ensuring we are physically prepared for a short amount of time, in order to expend as much energy as possible. Increasing our breathing rate is one of the preparations as our bodies attempt to maximise the amount of oxygen we take in.
BREATHING THROUGH STRESS
It’s obvious that stressful situations increase our breathing rate. When we lose control over our reaction in stressful situations, we are still entering into damaging physical states and have little control over their onset.
However, out of all of our automatic physical responses to stressful situations, our breath is the one response we have the ability to control. By slowing our breathing, we can overturn the activation of our fight or flight response and ease our body into a calmer state. Although there is only preliminary scientific evidence in this area, a simple breathing exercise that reduces one’s breathing rate can have long-lasting beneficial effects on physical activation in the face of stressful circumstances.
Slowing breathing to a rate of 6 breaths per minute, or a 5 second long inhalation period, is associated with a variety of positive outcomes. Slow breathing can decrease pain perception, reduce negative emotions, help maintain mental health, and even lower blood pressure. As simple and straightforward as slowing breathing may be, practicing slow breathing can significantly impact our physical and mental wellbeing.
You can practice slowing your breathing easily by sitting up straight in order to take as full a breath as possible, and counting your inhalation and exhalation, starting with inhalations lasting 2-3 seconds and slowing until you reach a 5 second inhalation period. There are various techniques and exercises, but the ultimate goal is simply to lower your respiration rate.
Even more, if you’re the type that doesn’t have the time or opportunity to practice slow breathing, particularly when stressful situations come up and must be dealt with immediately, using a tool, such as a visual representation of an optimal breathing rate, to help you sync your breath can lead to slower breathing without demanding your full attention.
Next time you’re faced with an insurmountable number of tasks or someone who knows how to ruffle your feathers, it’s natural that you may feel physical activation in a stressful situation. This could be a warmer body temperature, a faster heart rate, or an increase in sweat. Try cultivating a mindful awareness of your body’s reaction by focussing on your breathing.
The VINAYA app includes a short breathing exercise that can help you instantly take control by slowing your breathing and bringing your body back into a calm state. Download it now for free on iOS or Android, with or without a smart accessory.