I’ve been sitting here, not needing to breath for 2 minutes and 55 seconds. It’s the first time being guided through this exercise and there’s no panic, no ‘holding’ my breath… Just a feeling of ease and abundance as I watch the minutes pass.
Another time, a different breathing exercise, my heart beat and breathing suddenly engage in a synchronous rhythm, sending oscillations spiraling up and down my body. I’m not consciously ‘making’ this happen, but i’m with it. Experiencing a new way of being in my body.
Just two of the many unexpected, ‘beyond ordinary’ experiences I have had, seemingly out of nowhere, whilst exploring the potential hidden in the breath.
And it isn’t just emerging physical phenomena. There’s always a corresponding shift in conscious thought. Going beyond the ordinary with breathing also permits us to break through barriers of ordinary perception. The ‘shoulds’ and limiting stories of why ‘you can’t’ seemingly dissolve, blown away in a cleansing respiratory storm. Replaced by a new level of awareness, expanding the space in which we can be.
That’s what happens when we direct our attention deep into a physiological process that forms the foundation of our life. Breathing is pretty important, it keeps you alive, but how often do you really think about it?
Consider poor dolphins. They always have to think about their breathing, consciously ensuring their blowhole is above the water before they let themselves take a breath. What happens when they sleep, you should be wondering? Well, they have this trick where they only shut off half their brain. Their brain halves actually take turns at staying awake to make sure they can breathe.
As land mammals, most of our daily breathing occurs automatically, so we take it for granted. That’s a shame because with a little understanding and practice you can literally ‘breathe life’ back into your… well… You can ‘breathe life’ back into your life.
Although simple on the surface, unconscious breathing, the ability to breathe without thinking about it, is a fairly complex activity that requires careful monitoring and control. This means communication and interaction between many sub-systems in your body.
Various areas in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system communicate with the respiratory tract and the musculoskeletal structure, to control physical movement. Chemoreceptors buried in our larger arteries and brainstem provide feed back about levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Whilst pressure, tension and pain levels also provide information to influence the unconscious process of involuntary breathing. This all occurs relative to the current demands put upon the body and managed via the brainstem.
Conscious breathing uses some of the same pathways to and from the body, but it’s controlled from totally a different place, up in the higher brain centres of the cortex. This higher level control of breath allows you to play the trumpet or swim and breathe when your nose and mouth are above the water (like our friend the dolphin). We can also control our breath to suit stressors or emotional stimuli and even direct our breath to different places along our torso.
The fact that breathing can occur both unconsciously and consciously means that we can look at breath as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious parts of the brain. Particularly when we learn to focus our attention into the body and direct our breath with specific exercises.
This is not a new realisation. The power and mystery of our breath has been revered in ancient wisdoms for thousands of years. Recent research in this area has shown that directed breathing enhances memory recall and emotional judgement.
Another study from the last 12 months is showing that breathing at certain paces or paying careful attention to where and how we breathe engages different parts of the brain, leading to changes in brain synchronisation and function.
Directed breathing techniques can reduce pain, increase mobility, clear metabolic waste, improve energy, open posture, lengthen life, modulate emotions and help initiate the relaxation response… Just to name a few benefits.
This is why we incorporate progressions of specific breathing exercises and movements into the Neurostructural Optimisation care plans we create for our patients. We call these specific exercises Somato Respiratory Integration.
Each stage of Somato Respiratory Integration has a specific application. Within each stage are various modifications to further personalise the exercise to suit each individual.
In addition to the specific breathing exercises incorporated in your personalised Neurostructural care plan, we also offer regular Somato Respiratory Integration workshops. These are complimentary for existing patients and we strongly encourage patients to invite friends or family who might also benefit from this work (guests also participate free of charge).
These workshops are held at the Mona Valepractice and provide an opportunity to further develop and refine your breathing practice in a relaxed, but motivating, group workshop atmosphere. Workshops conclude with a free Q&A session and light supper.
Workshop dates and times are announced via email and social media. To ensure personalised attention, numbers are strictly limited, so bookings are essential. Connect with our facebook and Instagram pages to ensure you don’t miss out.