....A progression towards another reality....

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pranayama and Stress: A Breather for the Symptomatic Soul

Well, you are stressed! It’s a long story, there are too many complications and you are confused or helpless. The situation may be out of your control, but your breath is not.
So, Breathe!

Do you raise those eyebrows when I say the “B” word? More often than not you can’t breathe away your problems. You’ll not find instant solutions either. Neither will you experience a “miracle”. You can, however, prevent and manage many symptoms that sustained stress has already made you vulnerable to. Also, you might be pleasantly surprised when your painful conditions get alleviated.

Do you have tense muscle groups around your neck and shoulders? Is your blood pressure on the higher side? Does your back-pain worsen when you are worked up? Do you have trouble going to sleep?Are you prone to indigestion in general?  
Then, you need to check the way you breathe without waiting for your symptoms to first make their presence felt or worsen.

Physical as well as mental stress affects the body the same way. The former is characterised by fight or flight. In other words, the body girds itself for immediate action when danger is perceived. Stress response leads to sympathetic activation that automatically, involuntarily, inhibits the digestive processes but increases activities like our heart rate, blood pressure, pulse-rate, respiratory rate etc.When the danger subsides, the body restores its original balance.

Mental stress translates itself the same way but tends to linger around for much longer. One can literally experience the heart beating rapidly, sweaty break-outs etc. under pressure or due to fear and anger. Even recollection of stressful or emotionally charged events can trigger a similar response in the body.

Whereas our blood pressure and heart rate are not in really in our control, our breath is. Although we generally breathe without awareness, we can, at any given time, control our breath rate at will. 

Breath acts as a bridge between the involuntary and voluntary activities in the body. Mental Stress translates into sympathetic activation that increases involuntary activities like heart rate, blood pressure, pulse rate, breath rate automatically. These can be stabilized by voluntary breath regulation. By consciously regulating your breath, you can influence your blood pressure, heart rate and the rate at which adrenaline is being pumped into your blood-stream. Once the breathing slows down the body systems automatically switch to the “relax” mode.

Pranayama is translated as rhythmic regulation of breath. By regular practice of pranayama one can reduce one’s breathing rate. Just like an athlete/marathon runner has a lesser heart and a pulse rate at rest compared to a normal person, a pranayama practitioner has a lower breathing rate in general. At rest, an adult breathes on an average, 12 – 18 times per minute. With regular practice of Pranayama one can reduce the number of breaths to 7-11 per minute.Consequently, one becomes less prone to sustaining the stress response.

By practicing pranayama regularly, keeping a check on the breathing pattern and breathing speed, and by regulating the same a few times a day, it is possible to alleviate, manage and prevent many symptoms of mental stress. So, Breathe!

One can start with simple non strenuous diaphragmatic breathing by placing hands on the abdomen and observe it inflate and relax. Simple humming, M-kara chanting with each exhalation regulates the breath indirectly.

For a detailed description of simple diaphragmatic breathing technique for relaxation and to know if you have the correct breathing pattern, please click on
Try it a few times. If you feel refreshed in less than 10 minutes, you know you are doing it right.

That’s all Folks!

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