Breath Practice is becoming the weapon of choice to support mental wellness but how can holding your breath support your health?
‘There are as many breath patterns as there are types of food’ say James Nestor, Author of Breath The New Science Of Lost Art. Different breath patterns produce different effects on the body and mind, with our breath we can increase our energy, induce relaxation, send more oxygenated blood to the brain or even full on hallucinations. Like everything in life, too much of a good thing can have the adverse effect on our health. Over breathing can both stifle and accelerate the body’s healing mechanism to repair itself. Learning to breath should be easy as we are all advanced breathers but what about breath holding? Are there as many health benefits to reserving your exhales as they are to deepening the your inhale?
Next time you find yourself gasping for air keep this in mind;
Your Not Actually Out Of Breath
The average person can hold their breath comfortably for 30-90 seconds, the lungs only use a quarter of the available oxygen that is inhaled, which means you have 3 quarters left in the fuel tank in case of emergency. That burning felling and urge to inhale is caused by the build up of carbon dioxide, which is also signalling a message to the brain to tell the body to take an inhale. Thanks evolution! But try to sit with the burn a bit longer, doing so uses up old oxygen stores and replaces it with fresher oxygen.
Breath Holding Cultivates Antibacterial Qualities In The Body
We hear mostly about Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen but the miracle gas, Nitric Oxide, is not praised enough. When we hold the breath levels of Nitric Oxide elevate. Nitric Oxide has a strong antibacterial effect and can kill both bacteria and viruses. Nitric Oxide improves the efficiency of the oxygen which in turn support immunity.
Breath Holding Helps The Lungs To Function Better
Taking in a huge breath and holding it for as long as you will uses the lungs full range of motion. Breath holding is the equivalent to a Barre workout for the lungs. The heart and lungs work together, so improving your breathing by breath holding relieves of the heart rate beating blood around the body.
Breath Holding Makes Support Cellular activity
More on Nitric Oxide….. Nitric Oxide supports our cells to function optimally by using less oxygen. The less we breath the less work our lungs have to do. Breath holding helps us to use the 3/4 of left over oxygen in the lung instead of taking in more. Our cells do the same work but using less fuel. Sustainability begins with a breath!
Breath Holding Regulates The Nervous System
One breath pattern that we all do in a moment of stress or shock is holding the breath. Breath holding can indicate to the nervous system that we are in danger. Once the biological alarm bell’s have sounded, the feeling of stress, anxiety or even panic attacks. If we are consciously holding our breath we can regulate the stress response and retrain our brain not to feel emotionally triggered by feared. The breath can make you bullet proof!
Heart breathing is a very effective breath pattern, it doesn’t require breath holding but invites you to slow down the breath to take take 5 or 6 breaths per minute. It’s called heart breathing because you focus your attention on the physical location of the heart as you breath. This breath technique is training the body to use less oxygen, use the oxygen reserves and regulate heart and brain waves which is the optimum state of functioning. Bringing the heart and head together is a powerful thing. You will see benefits from doing this for 5 minutes a day. Try taking an inhale for 6 seconds, exhale for six seconds and focus on your heart. You will feel challenged, the brain thinks that it isn’t getting enough oxygen but its wrong! You are giving it better quality oxygen and learning that you are safe even when your body is signalling otherwise.