“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Groundbreaking research is revealing that a simple thing like how you breathe can be hugely transformational. Healthy breathing techniques embedded in ancient religious practice improve body posture, sleep, general wellbeing, and spiritual growth.
In our stressed-out modern lives, we as a species have lost the ability to breathe as nature has designed. When the body is flooded with stress hormones we tend to breathe in fast short bursts from the upper throat and chest area with grave consequences for our immune system, mental and cardiological health.
Our ancestors knew better
Western medicine for a long time believed that the nose was more or less an ancillary organ and that it was no problem just breathing through the mouth. But the latest research is revealing that our ancestors had more expansive sinus cavities and larger mouths, creating wider airways for breathing. This is not only related to the better diet where people were forced to chew their food more than the processed food eaten by most people today but by breathing primarily through the nose.
Scientists, studying the shapes of jaws and mouth cavities from skulls several hundred thousand years old were surprised by the quality of the teeth and jawbones meaning that our ancestors probably never suffered from chronic respiratory problems, sleep apnea, snoring, sinusitis, or allergies so common today.
Rituals performed by ancient peoples and the old religions have always understood the power of breathing and that certain breathing techniques are essential in experiential spirituality and elevation of consciousness.
The power of prayer
Researchers at the University of Pavia in Italy measured blood flow, heart rate, and nervous system feedback of dozens of people reciting the popular Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum and the Latin version of the Catholic Ave Maria prayer. The breathing pattern changed instantly with blood flow to the brain increases with functions of the heart circulation and nervous system reaching peak efficiency. Both prayer and mantra caused striking, powerful, and synchronous increases in existing cardiovascular rhythms when recited six times a minute.
Breathing through the nose
Inhaling and exhaling naturally through the nose is what you should be doing. As you inhale the nose warms and moisturizes the air. Your nose releases nitric oxide which widens the blood vessels allowing for better transportation of oxygen to vital organs. Your breathing will be deeper and slower increasing the volume of your lungs and diaphragm.
Conscious and focused deep breathing through the nose can instantly bring you from a state of high tension into a relaxed state of mind.
Sit upright holding one hand on your lower belly and the other in the heart area.
At the count of one inhale and exhale through your nose.
Continue until the count of twelve then switch your hands
Continue until the count of 24
Close by placing both your hands on your belly
You can learn more about such breathing techniques in my online video course on mindful breathing exercises.
Low impact body exercises such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong and deep walking in nature will do wonders in reducing stress hormones in the body. When you focus on nasal breathing your body posture will also improve naturally. Especially when walking the key is finding a natural rhythm where you go into synchronicity with your body movement and with your surroundings as you breathe through the nose.
Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker