Nevsah Karamehmet, Vedic Meditation Teacher, Breath Coach and Founder of BREATH HUB
Breathwork is the scientific way of being well. Regular breathwork not only relieves stress, anxiety and anger but can also heal more than 200 breathing-related issues, including panic attacks, depression, hypertension, asthma, migraine, chronic pain, ADHD and other attention deficit problems.
Breathwork is also an extremely helpful tool in boosting the body’s natural immune response both directly and indirectly. Improving oxygenation and function of the lymphatic system, clearing the body of toxins, optimizing the pH of body fluids all help to strengthen our immune system.
Breathwork is a natural way of helping the body fight with microorganisms and pathogens. Research shows that, in people who practice breathwork regularly, white blood cells – the natural army of the immune system – and NK (natural killer) cells of the same group increase in 3 to 6 months. White blood cells can destroy cells infected by a pathogen, whereas NK cells can kill tumours. Together with white blood cells, NK cells attack invading organisms and eliminate them as threats. They also prepare for new attacks by recording them in their cell memory.
In addition, breathwork helps us stay strong and fit by regulating our stress levels and improving our brain functions and the nervous system that is directly linked with the immune system. Stress resilience, a restful night’s sleep, and the ability to replenish our energy stores are all imperative if we want to be in the best shape we can be.
Scientific research has shown that learning breathing techniques can improve lung function significantly. Breathing slowly allows the air we breathe to stay in the lungs longer and therefore buy oxygen some more time to circulate through the bloodstream. And this means more oxygen – and better lung performance – with fewer number of breaths. This may especially be helpful during autumn and winter, when respiratory diseases peak.
Daily breathing exercises change our body chemistry. If you have a dysfunctional breathing habit, you might be going in and out of hypocapnia, or respiratory alkalosis, without even realizing it. This leads to panic, anxiety, fear, anger, headaches, migraine, body aches and attention deficit problems.
We especially see attention deficit problems in young adults, which is a big concern for the teachers in Breathing Sciences School. Almost 80 per cent of the young population, mostly university students, have attention deficit problems, and they experience difficulty learning, reading, understanding, concentrating and taking tests. Distractions like social media exacerbate this situation.
Learning problems, concentration issues and attention deficit problems such as ADHD are huge problems for all of us. But thankfully, these can be eased or healed by working on our breathing. When we become more aware of our breathing and start regulating our breath, our body balances the respiratory chemical axis, which resolves all these problems.
I always tell my students that most psychological issues are actually chemical problems. They develop due to unbalanced, wrong breathing habits, such as over-breathing. We cannot separate breathing habits from respiration. Each breath we take affects the respiratory chemistry positively or negatively and might be the reason behind many symptoms. It’s scientifically proven that well-known symptoms of hypocapnia are the symptoms triggered by dysfunctional breathing habits.
People experience all kinds of symptoms just because they breathe poorly, which causes their body chemistry to suffer. However, we can regulate our breathing just by working on our breath for10-20 minutes each day. And the good part is that it does not even matter which technique we use unless we are trying to alleviate or heal a specific symptom.
And this is precisely why we created Breath Hub, a mobile app offering hundreds of guided breathwork sessions and courses. Over 300 breath workers and experts from all around the world, including experts from the Breath Coaching Federation and Breathing Sciences Faculty have contributed to this app.
Changing our breath changes our brainwaves. Neuroscientists have discovered a direct correlation between the increase of alpha brain waves and a decrease in the symptoms of depression. Breathwork is the most effective way to shift your brainwaves from beta to alpha, which helps increase clarity, focus, concentration and heal attention deficit problems.
Breath Hub (www.breathhub.app) can truly transform your life and improve your overall health wellbeing.
Here are 5 simple breathing exercise you can use to enhance your wellbeing.
- BOX BREATHING
Box breathing, also known as square breathing, gets its name from equal duration of inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding the breath again. This technique is famously used by U.S. Navy Seals to facilitate concentration in high-stress situations. In box breathing, carbon dioxide builds up in the blood as you hold your breath, which facilitates the entry of oxygen into the cells. It also stimulates the vagus nerve, which plays a major role in the parasympathetic nervous system. A strong vagus response is critical to physical and mental health.
Box breathing is the ideal method to enhance concentration, reduce stress and improve your mood. It helps lower your heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and reduce the stress chemicals in your body. After a couple of minutes, you will feel rejuvenated.
To practice this technique, slowly breathe in through the nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for 4, breathe out through the nose for a count of 4 and hold your breath for 4.
Once you get the hang of it, you may increase the length of the breaths to 5 or 6 counts. The important point is to inhale, hold, exhale and hold for the same duration.
- COHERENT BREATHING
Resonance frequency breathing or coherent breathing is a kind of relaxed diaphragmatic breathing technique at around 5 or 6 breaths per minute, which has a regulating effect on the autonomic nervous system. Coherent breathing helps to find balance between the function of the sympathetic nervous system, which gets us moving and the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us. This technique strengthens the vagus nerve, which plays a key role in the parasympathetic nervous system. It may help with anxiety and depression, improve heart rate variability, strengthen resilience, and increase the capacity to cope with stress.
To practice coherent breathing, be seated in a comfortable position and bring your attention to your breath. Take a deep, diaphragmatic breath for a count of 6 and exhale for a count of 6. Continue for a couple of minutes and try to notice the change in your mood.
A comfortable inhalation and exhalation duration differs from person to person. Some may prefer a 4-6, 5-5 or 5-7 cycle, instead of 6-6. Experiment with different counts and find one that fits you best.
- ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
Alternate nostril breathing is a yogic breathing technique also known as Nadi Shodhana, which means “clearing the channels of circulation.” You can practice this cleansing and balancing technique to reduce stress, lower the blood pressure, and remove toxins. This technique also improves focus, increases awareness, and enhances lung capacity.
To practice alternate nostril breathing, place the tips of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand between the eyebrows. Close your eyes, take a deep breath in and out through the nose to relax and concentrate. Now, close the right nostril with the thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Then, close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, switch fingers and exhale through the left nostril. So, the idea is to alternate nostrils after each inhale and exhale through the other nostril. The practice should begin by inhaling through the left and end by exhaling through the left. You can repeat this exercise for 5-10 cycles and see how you feel.
Consistency is helpful in this practice, so try to match the duration of the inhales and exhales. You can do this by counting to 5 or another number you are comfortable with.
- HEART BREATHING
In heart breathing or heart-focused breathing, the purpose is to direct the attention to the heart area while taking deep and slow breaths. As you inhale and exhale, imagine you are doing so through your heart. Placing one hand on the chest is helpful to direct your attention there. Breathe in for a count of 5 or 6 and breathe out for a count of 5 or 6, making sure your breaths are smooth. Try this breathing exercise for a couple of minutes in high-stress situations you face, such as being late for work, giving a presentation or taking an exam.
- PURSED-LIP BREATHING
Pursed-lip breathing is a technique that gives us better control over our breath. It relieves shortness of breath and improves breathing by keeping the airways open for longer. British Lung Foundation and American Lung Association recommend pursed-lip breathing to help with the symptoms of diseases like asthma and COPD.
To practice pursed-lip breathing, inhale as slowly as possible through your nose and purse your lips to exhale through your mouth. Extend your outbreath until it becomes twice as long as your inbreath. For example, inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 8. This exercise triggers the recovery mode of the body, helping you calm down and relax.