This is the summary of the 6-week MBX-12 Workshop Day 5: How to incorporate deep breathing exercise for MBX-12 practice. This workshop was organized and sponsored by the Foxboro Council on Aging and Human Services in Massachusetts.
3 Deep Breathing Principles
Caution: For your safety, begin your breathing exercise at your normal rate and intensity of breathing, then incrementally progress for the most benefit. Whenever you feel uncomfortable or dizzy, stop immediately and resume when you are fully recovered. If you have any medical condition, consult with your doctor prior to practice.
Breathing manifests our health. The way we breathe shows not only how relaxed or anxious we are now, but also the way we have been living in the past. Habits accumulate and affect our future health. The direction, either to a positive or negative way, can change by practice.
For example, when you take ten deep breaths, you can feel immediate effects on your emotion. It relaxes you, slows down the racing mind, and helps you step back a little for better perception of things that were previously problematic. The blood vessels expand and facilitate better circulation in the body and brain. Your heart works less.
Studies show that deep breathing exercises enhance the synchronization of the neuronal circuits of the left and right hemispheres in the brain. This means that you can experience greater mental equanimity, physical coordination and motor skills. As a result, you function with more efficiency and have more energy.
Here are the three things to be aware of in breathing exercises:
1. Breathe Deeply: Deep breathing increases your breath force. For example, when you inhale, the diaphragm extends downward to suck more air into the body. This extension changes the structural dynamics in the torso, stretching and stimulating the small intestines, stomach, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and colon.
This effect becomes greater when you expand the lower belly outward. When you exhale, the diaphragm returns upward to the original position and the belly muscles contract toward the spine. The diaphragmatic rising compresses the heart and lungs while the abdominal contraction increases the pressure on the organs eliciting massaging effects.
In summary, deep breathing increases the extensibility of the diaphragm leading to increased force of your breath.
2. Breathe Slowly: Slow breathing affects your emotional state. For example, stretch your breathing as long as you can, especially with your exhalation. Normal healthy breathing frequency is about 12 times per minute. However, with your conscious effort, you can change the frequency to 10, 6, or even 4 (for advanced practitioners only).
Try to vary the length of inhalation and exhalation, with exhalation twice longer than inhalation. Let’s practice:
Ex 1) Inhale for 2 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. This adds up to 10 breaths per minute, which is great. Practice this method for 1 minute. Take a break for 1 minute.
Ex 2) Inhale for 3 seconds, pause for 1 second, and exhale for 6 seconds. This adds up to 6 breaths per minute. Practice this method for 3 minutes. Take a break for 1 minute. If you are comfortable so far, try Ex 3.
Ex 3) Inhale for 4 seconds, pause for 3 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This adds up to 4 breaths per minute. Practice this method for 1 minute.
In summary, slow breathing relaxes the blood vessels and increases blood flow. It reduces the “action mode” but increases the “being mode” of the energy in the body, eliciting a calming effect on your emotion.
3. Breathe Mindfully: Although breathing in essence is a physiological experience, we express our thoughts and emotions through it. Conversely, we can put our thoughts and emotions in our breath and deliver the specific message to our inner self, altering the root of the physiology of the body. Here, our message today is “Kindness”.
Kindness fosters warmth within. When we are kind to others, our heart and brain and body suddenly become flooded with thankful feelings for being so. We become happy very quickly. It relaxes the tensions built within and with others.
Kindness is therapeutic. When we are kind to ourselves and others, there are subtle but transformative changes in our emotions. Unhappy feelings gradually melt into warm thoughts and wishes; anger finds its way in different directions. Research has shown that when our mind is in kindness mode, we breathe differently and thus our heart rate changes and the release of oxytocin, the ‘bonding hormone” rises, and we express our emotions differently.
Ex) Breathe in and think “Be kind to myself”; breathe out and think “Be kind to others.”
In summary, kindness can reduce internal struggles, help us connect with the outside in a more pleasant and emotionally satisfying way, and affect our physical health positively.