Within our conscious control, breathing is one of the ways we can make a change to our health and wellbeing. For example, we have the ability to slow our breath down to help shift into a more calm and relaxed state. Research investigating pranayama (yogic breathing practices) has involved various aspects of its effects on the body-mind.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the control centre for ‘Fight or Flight’ response (sympathetic), the ‘Rest & Digest’ (parasympathetic), and the cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems. Our breathing has a direct connection to the vagus (wandering) nerve, which is a key part of our nervous system. For example, when we experience stress, we quickly move into a mode where both physically and mentally we are primed for survival and quick action. We are also capable of activating our relaxation response, which in many ways are the opposite to those of the stress response. Pranayama is one of the ways that we can recruit the respiratory system to cultivate this relaxation response.
Effects of pranayama on hypertension
Pranayama and its role in reducing anxiety