|Slow, deep breathing is probably the
single best anti-stress medicine we have.
When you bring air down into the lower portions of the lungs
where oxygen exchange is most efficient, everything changes.
Heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, muscles relax,
anxiety eases and the mind calms. The immune system and all
cells of the neurological and bodily functions are in fact
improved by 10.5 percent.
Andre Weil, director of programmes in Integrative Medicine
and clinical professor of Internal Medicine at the University
of Arizona, says breath control alone can achieve remarkable
results in improving digestive problems, lowering blood pressure,
ending heart arrhythmias, decreasing anxiety and allowing
people to get off addictive drugs. It also improves sleep
and energy cycles, increases blood circulation throughout
the body, and enhances the autonomic nervous system and auto
Sandie Matthews, founder and director of the Jivana Yoga
Centre, Greymouth, on the West Coast of the South Island,
New Zealand, says, "In the 36 years I have been practicing
deep breathing (Pranayama) yoga and teaching these basic ancient
principles to my students and clients, I have constantly been
impressed with the increase of the health improvements of
each person. People would come into class in a stressful state,
and within 10 minutes they could notice changes to their pulses,
heartbeat, nervous systems and mental state. People who have
been crippled for several years and under ACC would tell me
that changes took place immediately after their first session
of Pranayama yoga. Asthmatics also improve their breathing
ratio and help to avoid common panic attacks which triggers
You are never too old to learn the art of C.P.T. (count pause
throat) breathing. At present there are only two places in
NZ that the C.P.T. breathing is taught, Gisborne and the Jivana
Yoga Centre Greymouth, Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol levels
are normalized; Uric Acid levels can be reduced, helping gout
problems. Depression, Stress and Anxiety can be overcome,
along with Asthma and many other chronic and acute health
conditions. In many health related problems the red blood
cells in the brain and body are starving for oxygen, this
is taken care of through the C.P.T. breathing. You begin to
take on a brand new lease of life as these starved cells begin
their rejuvenation and repair.
Relaxation breathing works to increase parasympathetic tone,
slowing the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure, bringing
the two systems into balance. Unlike drugs, it is free of
toxicity, easy to practice and at no cost in terms of time
and money. One of the few studies of clinical application
of Pranayama yoga found that menopausal woman were able to
reduce the frequency of hot flushes by 50 percent.
Studies also suggest these breathing practices can combat
infertility. Watch a baby breathe and you will see the rise
and fall of the belly. With age, most people shift from this
healthy abdominal breathing to shallow chest breathing. This
strains the lungs, which must move faster to ensure adequate
oxygen flow, which taxes the heart. The heart is then forced
to speed up to provide enough blood for oxygen transport.
The result is a vicious cycle where stress prompts shallow
breathing, which in turn creates more stress. The simplest
and most powerful technique for protecting your health is
The tortoise is the longest living animal and, coincidentally,
the slowest breather.
Today some hospitals are teaching breathing techniques to
hospital patients with a wide range of conditions and all
different age groups.
"Deep diaphragmatic breathing and other mind-body techniques
in Pranayama yoga can significantly reduce symptoms of severe
PMS, as well as emotional distress, depression and anxiety,"
says Alice Domar, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard
Medical School and director of the Mind/body Centre for Woman's
Sandie reports Howard Kent from the Yoga for Health Foundation
in Britain visited New Zealand over 20 years ago. "He
walked through the Wellington Airport doors where I was waiting
to pick him up. My focus was instantly drawn to his massive
diaphragm. Over the past 20 years he and his eight trained
staff have been working very effectively with over 300 people
with MS. Breath is the main key, he says, in helping those
with this most difficult disease. Barry had not used his legs
for 18 months when he visited the centre, and the form of
his MS made control of all muscles virtually impossible. By
his third visit he was able to stand against the wall supported
by only two fingers. Soon after, with help, he climbed stairs.
He now is retaining his muscle tone. This is one of hundreds
of similar case studies."
In 1972 Miss Kerstin Ahlbeck had her first symptoms of MS.
In 1975 she was diagnosed. She slowly deteriorated with no
remissions. Miss Ahlbeck came to a yoga centre in Britain
for the first time in March 1981. She is now divorced and
bringing up four children aged between 15 and 21. During the
years since her first visit, she has practiced regular deep
breathing, yoga postures and meditation. During the whole
of this period her situation reversed with slow but equally
steady progress. There was no apparent regression. On her
first visit Miss Ahlbeck had no use in her legs, now she can
walk 50 yards or more with the help of a frame.
Yoga and the Spine. The nerves, which come from the cervical
spine (the neck or upper seven vertebrae), connect with the
senses taste, smell, sight and hearing. Nerve branches from
here also go to the brain. Pressure on this part of the spine
such as often caused by muscular tension in the trapezoid
and rhomboid muscles over the neck and shoulder may result
in headaches of the nervous "tension" sort. Pranayama
yoga sets out to eliminate this nervous tension through its
practices of relation and breath control.
In yoga we try to maintain all the basic movements of the
spine bending back and forth, bending side-to-side and twisting.
In effect we are counter-posing our normal daily activities,
which are usually concave chest and rolled-forward shoulders.
If not corrected at the end of our day we may end up with
weakened skeletal muscles around the vertebrae and lack of
tone and strength also in the frontal portions. If all lobes
of the lungs are not used efficiently, the heart has to work
harder because the blood, which it pumps to the lungs, is
inadequately charged with oxygen. So in order to ensure that
each part of the body receives its quota of oxygen, the heart
will attempt to pump more blood around the body to compensate.
Even so, the oxygen supply may still be inadequate in some
quarters. The result of this may be high blood pressure (hypertension).
Remember, by breathing slower and deeper you can clear the
mind, slow the heart beat and pulse rate, and rejuvenate the
cells of the brain and the body. This, in turn, aids the internal
organs and glands.
The lungs generate the electricity in the body. This provides
one of the main aspects of balance to your mental, spiritual
and physical health.
When we learn to breath properly, we learn to calm and rejuvenate
ourselves. This way we control our own lives, master our own
course, captain our own ships, and increase and lengthen the
quality of our lives.