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Science of Breathing

Science of Breathing


Following is the aspect of breathing as per medical science.

Any life on earth is intrinsically connected with heart and breathing. Heart is the first functional organ to take shape in the foetus. At around 18 to 19 days after fertilisation (now this period is further reduced to 16 days as per the latest discovery ) , the heart begins to form. This early development is critical for subsequent embryonic and prenatal development. The heart is the first functional organ to develop and starts to beat and pump blood at around day 22.Brain and other organs come afterwards.


Our breathing has a rhythm. The rhythm of each breath we take is having a unique pattern. At the beginning of each breath hundreds of neurons fire haphazardly at low levels without having any coordination. But then they quickly synchronize. A burst of activity is triggered in this synchronized effort. It signals muscles in the diaphragm and chest to contract causing the chest to expand starting the process of inhalations. Then there is exhalation as the signal subsides and the chest pushes air out of the lungs. This generates the rhythm of breathing. The rhythm of breathing changes constantly. It is different when we rise from seated to standing and then walk. The adoption of the brain to our activity changes is very crucial for our survival, otherwise we will quickly die out of lack of oxygen.

In a relaxed state the breathing rate is in the range of 12 to 20 breaths per minute (bpm) (Royal College of Physicians, 2017)

Deep breathing increases the oxygen supply to the brain. It stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. A parasympathetic system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. In the case of normal breathing (shallow and fast), a sympathetic nervous system is involved causing more energy consumption. Parasympathetic nervous system makes you feel connected to your body. It brings awareness away from the worries. It then quiets the mind.

In the 1920s, German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz developed “autogenic training” as a relaxation technique. It involves slow and deep breathing as well as other aspects. It is probably still the best-known breathing technique for relaxation applied in the West till recent times.

Slow and deep breathing techniques have been proven to result in stress reduction, insomnia prevention, emotion control, improved attention. The method was developed based on the understanding that slow, deep breathing increases the activity of the vagus nerve, a part of the parasympathetic nervous system. The vagus nerve controls and also measures the activity of many internal organs. On the stimulation of the vagus nerve the body is pervaded by a feeling of calmness. It causes heart rate to slow down and become regular. Blood pressure reduces. Muscles get relaxed. The brain too relaxes increasing feelings of peacefulness. Thus the technique works through both the neurobiological and psychological mechanisms.

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The above are the aspects of breathing as per the medical science. We will now see the breathing as per Spiritual Science. Then we will apply this knowledge for developing a unique breathing technique as per Sri Anand Yoga (SAY)


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