The breath connects our inner expectations and our outer experience, our mind-body-spirit, our conscious and subconscious mind, how it is literally the bridge connecting all of these aspects of our being and our existence and how it can become blocked and the effects that it can have.

It is known that the breath is intimately linked with our emotional state of being and to our physiological well-being. What is perhaps less well known, or less thought about is the links without spiritual and subconscious aspects.  Breathing exercises to help one reach higher states of spiritual awareness, just as psychologists have breathing exercises to emotionally calm clients.

Through healing modalities like breathwork it is now known that the breath has the power to access our subconscious and all of the traumas and behavioral patterns stored within. It also has the power to transform and release these issues. The use of breathwork for clients offers a safe and reliable approach to exploring transpersonal states as well as a quick method for accessing unconscious material... Individuals have reported rapid improvement in a wide range of disorders as a result of breathwork treatment.

Breathing inhibition - The hidden key

There are few people in the world who know how to effectively deal with emotional issues. Nearly all of us use one tool or another to suppress such feelings, be it ice cream or chocolate, sex, drugs or alcohol. This avoidance is known to cause anxiety and depression as well as increased sympathetic arousal, which then holds the body in a constant, chronic state of stress. Coupled with these issues is breathing inhibition.

By breathing less fully into life, we are able to avoid, to a greater or lesser extent, the uncomfortable feelings and emotions. It is also a way of continually suppressing these sensations and thus, via classical conditioning, these inhibitions become habitual.  By decreasing our oxygen intake we reduce the supply of oxygen to the brain and body which reduces its ability to function and has been shown to lead to a variety of psychophysiological issues. It also means that, rather than processing the issues we have in our day-to-day life, they are suppressed and stored in our subconscious. These stored issues, as well as taking a large amount of energy to suppress, then condition how we experience our reality. If the issue involved physical danger then by storing this, we can believe that the world is a dangerous place and we will thus attract or interpret events via this belief and repeatedly prove it to be so.

Many of our beliefs and behavioral patterns come from our formative years. During this time, we are like a sponge, soaking up information and making conclusions about life. However, these conclusions are not always correct, particularly if based upon extreme, traumatic events.

We have suppressed these issues so well and become so accustomed to our way of experiencing life, and indeed of breathing, that we are generally unaware of this cause and effect relationship, usually we only see the results. It is therefore imperative, if we wish to evolve physically, mentally and spiritually, that we release our breathing inhibitions and all of the emotional baggage that we have inside so we can experience life and its wonders with eyes unconditioned by fear.

We breathe without giving it a second thought and take this particular bodily function completely for granted. Yet, scientists are now telling us that giving each breath a thought might actually lead us to a place of deep and lasting happiness and health. According to neuroscience, the act of breathing consciously paves the way to enhanced immunity, inhibits fight-or-flight response to stress, induces a state of relaxation, creates emotional stability, improves cardiovascular and respiratory healthy, is the perfect antidote to depression even when drugs haven't entirely worked out and helps in the drug-free management of pain. This list of effects is by no means comprehensive; it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Pranayama: what is it and how does it work?

Pranayama is a technique in yoga that puts the controls to breathing back into your own hands. Literally, the word means "extension of life force," and the practice engages you with the nuances of breathing. This special and ancient yogic technique switches the light back on in the dark spaces - the places in your body-mind that you have not dared to visit. That said, pranayama works in the realm of the nervous system to vastly improve the mechanics of it, because it influences what we always thought was beyond the realm of influence.
Pranayama tones the vagus nerve and manages anxiety

Conscious breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve, which runs from the base of the brain all the way to the abdomen. It is responsible for managing nervous system responses and reducing the heart rate, to name only two of its functions. The neurotransmitter acetylcholine is released by the vagus nerve and plays a pivotal role in increasing calmness and focus. Therefore, the more you stimulate the vagus nerve, the more acetylcholine it releases, directly lowering anxiety levels. Adults who experience higher levels of vagal tone also experience enhanced feelings of connectedness and positive emotions, and this increase further amplifies vagal tone.
Pranayama manages hypertension and reduces heart rate

Consistent practice of conscious breathing can reduce blood pressure and calm the heart. This in turn, scientists say, increases the life span of the blood vessels. The regular and long-term practice of pranayama can therefore prevent diseases of the nervous system such as stroke, migraine headaches or Parkinson's disease. Another notable benefit of pranayama is that it stops grey cells from diminishing with age, meaning your ability to perform at your best remains relatively intact as you grow older, and your memory and focus are also not undermined in the process. An interesting scientific finding on the benefits of pranayama is that the expression of genes involved in stress response can be changed in a way that can potentially slow down the body-mind's reactivity to stress. This will automatically improve immune function, metabolic activity and insulin secretion.

Pranayama is a great example of how matter can be influenced through the subtle act of awareness or objective observation. Your entire biology can be influenced by simply becoming aware of your breathand then manipulating it in order to move the controls from the primitive brain to the pre-frontal cortex - a direct effect of infusing the breath with your conscious attention. For example, emotions come under the jurisdictional authority of the pre-frontal cortex, as do many other mental and emotional aspects of the being. Therefore, when you alter your consciousness around your breath, your consciousness is sparked to alter your body-mind for optimum wellness.