An introduction to breath work

3 de dezembro de 2021

Intentional breathing is one of the most effective ways to gain control of your nervous system state

What if I told you I know a simple exercise that is so powerful that it can change your blood PH, making it more acidic or more alkaline in just a matter of moments??

What if I told you that this exercise can lower your heart rate, reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, boost your digestive function and even help you to fall asleep at night??

What if this exercise when practiced to an extreme level could even produce trippy, hallucinogenic, LSD like experiences??? That usually gets peoples attention.

The exercise I am talking about, we do all day long without even realising. In fact it’s the most important thing that we do and rarely do we even notice its happening let alone pay attention to how we do it.

My name is Nikki Jo Edyvane. I’m a certified alternative medicine practitioner covering multiple science backed areas of practice and the exercise I am talking about in this blog is breath work, often referred to as yoga breath, pranayama or intentional breathing.

This blog is the first of many articles I will be writing to introduce and educate as many people as possible about this incredible, life changing practice.

During my 5years of practice and 3years of working in breath work I have both experienced and witnessed some of the most remarkable health turn arounds you can possibly imagine simply by breathing with intention for as little as 10 minutes a day.

From people suffering debilitating pain, stress and anxiety, serious digestive issues such as chronic acid reflux, heart burn, IBS and indigestion, to sleep problems such as insomnia and sleep related anxiety.

It doesn't stop there, these positive improvements are also mirrored in many of my clients that are suffering from more serious acute and chronic illness.

Breath work is simple, accessible to everyone but most importantly it is highly effective and backed by established science. Let me explain.

We all know, to live a happy and healthy life we need to focus on a number of different areas. We need to exercise regularly, we need to consume high quality nutrition, we need to keep well hydrated and we need to get a good nights sleep. These are all accepted facts.

However, if you did not exercise today you’re not going to die. At least, not directly as a result of your lack of breaking a sweat today and when it comes to nutrition, while it is certainly important in the long term, we can go without eating anything at all for over 40 days. Even water, our bodies can survive without, for up to 5days and if you don’t sleep, you may feel rather groggy but it would take quite a few sleepless nights before the effects start to have any lasting impact on your health.

How long do you think you can survive without breathing???

I like to let that one sink in a little. Obviously, its not very long at all. Breathing is literally the most important thing that we do but rarely do any of us even give it a second thought.

Why is this relevant I hear you ask, well although it is an automatic action, there is a correct way to breath and guess what, you are not doing it. Breathing incorrectly in your general day to day life can, and generally will, have devastating and profound effects on your physical and mental health. You can upset your sleep pattern, your digestive function, your anxiety and stress levels and even suppress your immune system.

On the flip side, intentional breath work exercises, when practiced both safely and correctly, are one of the most immediate and effective ways for you to take control your body, your mind, your nervous system and your endocrine system.

So, we all breath, (hopefully) and for 99% of us it is something that happens completely naturally. It’s controlled by our autonomic nervous system and is extremely important to our overall health and wellbeing for obvious reasons, but also for a number of lesser known reasons which we are going to cover in this article.

The way that you breath truly is linked to the way that you feel. You see, your breathing and your nervous system are intrinsically linked. This link is strong, in fact it is unbreakable.

The fight or flight nervous system response was extremely useful in our days as hunter gatherers

To explain this I would like to give you a short biology lesson to get you thinking. For this we need to go back to when we were hunter gathers.

Imagine, you were out foraging for food, picking berries, when suddenly you come face to face with a sabre toothed tiger. My question to you is, do you breath in or do you breath out?

A curve ball question I know? one that you may or may not know the answer to, after all it is an automatic response.

You breath in. You cover your heart and lungs, all blood diverts to your musculoskeletal system, such as your legs and arms. ‘All’ other bodily functions and systems deemed unnecessary to this impending action go into standby, and in effect cease. This includes but is not limited to, your immune function, your digestive system, your endocrine system etc….

This is to give you the best possible chance of survival. It's like in Star Trek, when Scotty diverts all available power to the shields.

You see, your nervous system consists of two branches. The above example is a sympathetic nervous system response often referred to as your fight or flight. It is an incredibly important nervous system response when you are in it at the correct time but prolonged activation is extremely detrimental to your health, both physically and mentally.

Now, many people, in fact most of you reading this article are breathing in this way all day long. Let me just emphasise that point. You are breathing as though you are about to be attacked by a sabre toothed tiger all day long and its playing havoc with your health and wellbeing.

For example, if your digestion is eradicated for a prolonged period of time, you are certainly going to suffer with digestive issues and left unchecked these can manifest into much more serious issues. It’s the same with your immune function and endocrine system. They rely upon being able to work unimpeded as necessary.

While there may not be many sabre toothed tigers roaming the streets these days we have found more than enough stressors to replace them. Poor sleep and nutrition, anxiety, lack of exercise, job satisfaction, money worries, even social media. There are far too many examples to mention here but I'm sure you get my point.

What effect do you think this has on your health, your mindset and your ability to fight off any illness or infection that you may be exposed too?? Its certainly worth thinking about.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed malesuada faucibus ex nec ultricies. Donec mattis egestas nisi non pretium. Suspendisse nec eros ut erat facilisis maximus. In congue et leo in varius. Vestibulum sit amet felis ornare, commodo orci ut, feugiat lorem.

The autonomic nervous system is split into two distinct branches, similar to the Yin Yang energies

Now this brings me to the 2nd branch of the nervous system. Imagine you and you are out with your family and out of nowhere, your child turns to you and says;

‘I love you mummy/daddy’

My question is the same. Do you breath in or do you breath out? You breath out:-

Ahhhhhhhhhh. You open your heart, you relax your body and you fall deeply in love. This is your parasympathetic nervous system, your rest and digest response and what is really sad is, most of you won’t have experienced this feeling in your day to day lives for a really long time. If at all. Now think about how this effects your health, your mindset, your life etc.

The reason I am explaining all of this is, the biggest problem with breath work is while there are many people talking about it and a few teaching it. No one is teaching the why and the how behind it.

Why do we breath this way, what are the common issues associated with incorrect breathing and, in turn, what are the issues that intentional breathing can alleviate. But, most importantly for some people, what does the science say. Although you may not hear many doctors or health agencies talking about it, the science says a lot and it’s been around for thousands of years.

When I was learning yoga breath myself this simply did not exist and in the earlier days it made it far more difficult for me to commit and remain consistent with my practice. I knew I could feel benefits but I did not understand them. It wasn’t until I deep dived into the published science myself, that everything clicked into place. Once I had a basic understanding on the science of breathing, the muscles involved and the gas exchange which takes place between every inhale and exhale things became so clear.

The links between how we breath and so many common health complaints became obvious and I could visualise the health implications of being stuck in the fight or flight response for long periods of time. It almost became common sense.

Not only did my personal results become absolutely profound but early enrolees of my online course were all saying the same thing. It became a thing that I could not ignore.

I spent a few years removing any unsupported practices whether they worked or not, I knew I had to focus on simplifying the course content to ensure it was accessible to everyone and the result is our current breath work course.

Our 4 week breath work course gives you the tools to take control of your mind, your body and your NS

So you now understand the automatic element of breathing and its effects and influence on your nervous system, ie; you get breathless and inhale when you are excited, agitated or fearful, that fight or flight response and you exhale and relax when you feel calm, open and peaceful, that rest and digest response. But, what you almost certainly do not know is you can override this, meaning you can take full control of your nervous system.

You see as much as your nervous system can control your breath and in turn your overall health and well being, your breath can also control your nervous system and your overall health and well being. This intrinsic link goes both ways.

I will demonstrate this to you based on some really simple concepts.

Simplicity is important with breath work so this is something that we have focussed on with our course. There are so many things to learn with, that you need to ensure everything is as simple and as obvious as possible. For example; we use 3 categories for our breath work practices; -

  • Coffee
  • Water
  • Whiskey

  • Our coffee category is our ‘wake-up’ or ready yourself for a big workout category. This stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and really fires you up. These practices must be used sparingly and at the correct time. Just like coffee, too much can make you jittery, agitated, it can mess with your digestion and leave you struggling to fall asleep and it its no different with overuse of these excitatory techniques.

Our water category is our main 'go-to' category of practices. Like water they are always safe and healthy and as such they are good at anytime of the day. They are balancing techniques meaning if you are feeling up they will bring you down and if your are down they will bring you up. They are the only breathing practices that are safe to do any time and any place. Standing, driving, sitting or lying down.

Our whiskey category is our ‘go-to sleep’ without the need for pills or booze, our night cap if you like. They are the rest and relaxation techniques and as such, they’re great for falling asleep. They must be practiced in moderation, more accurately, at the correct time of day and extra attention should be given to ensurer you are in a safe and comfortable environment such as a bed, the floor or a comfy chair.

  • As with drinking whiskey, too much is not good for you, you can become disorientated, fall asleep (which is the intention) and in extreme circumstances they can even make you feel groggy.

Obviously there is so much more to it once you scratch the surface but this is a good example of how we have focussed on ensuring our course content is simple and accessible giving you the best chance of success.

If this has peeked your interest, check out our online breath work class. A comprehensive 4 week program, where we meet for 30-45minutes once a week via Zoom.

  • During each session we will practice at least 2 breathing techniques from our categories of breath work and we will explain the science behind them. These techniques will increase in intricacy as the weeks progress and as you become more confident. We also delve into the science and biology of breathing.

We then send you into your week along with 3 homework videos. A breathing technique from each of our categories. Coffee, water & whiskey, for you to practice each day until your next lesson.

While it may be a 4 week course, these really are tools that you will be able to use for the rest of your life and their benefits when used correctly and consistently really are profound. We strongly believe that you get so much more from breath work when you have a real understanding of exactly what is happening as you practice.

So this concludes our initial introduction to breath work, I hope you have found it informative. If you are interested in hearing more book your free discovery session today for a more focussed and personalised introduction and keep your eyes peeled for many more articles about breath work, yoga, and alternative health.

Good vibes

Nikki Jo Edyvane - MCMA

Written by Nikki Jo Edyvane - MCMA

Nikki is a certified breath work coach and complementary medical practitioner specialising in the endocannabinoid system, plant medicine and the gut brain connection. He is an associate member of the Complementary Medical Association.

He's also a very keen blogger, podcaster, yoga breath teacher and all round educator of all things natural.

Partilhar esta publicação: