One of the main reasons I teach yoga for TMS is because it teaches us how to properly consciously BREATHE. Our breath is the most important thing we have within our control that can settle down an overactive stress response, that familiar fight-or-flight state of the sympathetic nervous system. When fight-or-flight is sustained for long periods of time it triggers all sorts of distressing chronic symptoms in the body.
The way we breathe, literally tells the brain if we are under stress or if we are calm and safe. So by breathing longer and deeper, we can effectively hack this natural process and activate the calming relaxation response like a remote control. It can take some practice to get used to breathing in this way, but it's so beneficial for our physiology.
Let's use the calming Ujjayi breath as an example:
I have a video on calming Ujjayi breath if you'd like a demo of this simple breathing technique.
The Ujjayi breath is practised slowly, a pattern consistent with being in a relaxed state. Breathing into the lower part of the belly, using the diaphragm so that the tummy works like bellows to bring air in and out. Quite the opposite of what we might be used to when chronically stressed which is associated with really shallow and fast upper chest breathing.
By expanding our diaphragm in this way, we use our full lung capacity, especially lower down into the belly where the diaphragm lives. This stimulates the all-important Vagus nerve which passes through the diaphragm - triggering the soothing parasympathetic response.
Our Vagus nerve is the main nerve that controls this parasympathetic response and allows direct communication between the body and the brain. So in this case, the data is being sent from the diaphragm to the limbic system - our emotional centre of the brain. When the diaphragm moves slowly and calmly the Vagus nerve effectively tells the brain we are safe and the calming relaxation response comes into play.
With regular practice, our Vagal tone improves, our lung capacity increases and we learn to default to this type of slow deep breathing to self-regulate our nervous system naturally.
By slightly constricting the back of the throat with this type of breath we elongate our exhale and our diaphragm relaxes, this causes the pressure in the chest to change and the heart rate also slows down, which as a result, sends more safety signals to the brain and improves the calming effect even further.
Another brilliant benefit of this type of breath is the effect it has on focusing the mind, the sound the breath makes within the throat is really effective at redirecting the mind away from intrusive thinking and brings us right into the present moment.
Check out the video on calming Ujjayi Breath if you'd like a simple demo on how to do practice Ujjayi.
If you'd like more insight into my yoga work click here - yoga for TMS, also if you're new here check out my Recovery Journey Roadmap and let's connect on social media, I'm on Facebook or Instagram and post daily insight and inspiration over there.
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