Since you’ve been such a faithful reader of this blog, you are now undoubtedly a nasal breathing aficionado, and your life is better now. You feel more awake and productive, and your morning breath is a skosh less stinky. Groovy!
Ready to take your breathing to the next level? Correcting an unhealthy mouth breathing habit is one thing - now we’re talking yogic breathing, or Pranayama, an ancient but science-backed therapy shown to reduce stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression, and stress-related illnesses.
The ancient yogic science of “breath” deals with the body, breath, mind, soul, and the universe at large. So yoga not only relieves stress, but assists you in developing an individual awareness between your mind and body so you can ultimately be happier, healthier, and live longer.
Alright, that last bit may sound like a load of hooey, but the stress-reduction thing definitely checks out. A lot of research has focused on Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in particular, which involves several types of cyclical breathing patterns, which range from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating. Studies show SKY can be effective in treating stress and anxiety, and it has had positive outcomes for PTSD, depression, and stress-related medical illness. There’s even mounting evidence SKY can help combat substance abuse and rehabilitate criminal offenders.
Oh, and did we mention it’s free? You just need your lungs and a bit of determination. Sound too good to be true? You won’t know if you don’t try!
Here are the basics
Ujjayi: Also known as “Victorious Breath,” Ujjayi focuses on the physical sensation of your breath as it passes through your throat. This is a slow breathing technique timed to 2-4 breaths per minute. The technique is intended to enhance both calmness and alertness.
Bhastrika: Also known as “Bellows Breath,” Bhastrika requires you to rapidly inhale and forcefully exhale at thirty breaths per minute. Practitioners report a sort of runner’s high followed by calm alertness.
Om: You know this one. Your grandma knows this one. Sitting up straight, you will chant “om” three times, with a very prolonged exhale. This leads to heightened senses.
Sudarshan Kriya: Yes, one of the techniques is the name of the overall practice. This Sanksrit term means “proper vision by purifying action.” It is a more advanced form of breathing, which is rhythmic and cyclical with slow, medium, and fast cycles.
Let’s talk about stress
While the exact biological mechanisms at play remain unclear, a lot of research has established the linkage between SKY and many positive outcomes for stress and related illnesses. SKY has significantly reduced anxiety scores in several studies. Insomnia, too, seems to respond to daily SKY practice. Tsunami refugees even showed dramatic improvement in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression scores after SKY training.
The variety of breathing frequencies, intensities, lengths, and breath holds during SKY practice is thought to activate a number of parts of the brain and cause vagal nerve stimulation (VNS), an emerging treatment for depression. VNS leads to a chain reaction in the body known to improve autonomic function, neuroendocrine release, emotional processing, and social bonding. That’s a leading hypothesis and a hot topic of research, and while we may not know the exact biological pathways through which SKY reduces stress just yet, plenty of studies are showing the linkage really exists.
In summary: the world is on fire, we’re somehow constantly on the brink of war, and you’re working 60 hours a week for a job that’s paying part time. Life’s tough right now, and while we’re not claiming to have all the answers, if you’re stressed, we recommend giving SKY a shot.
Should you want to follow how we’re implementing a bit of breathing health into our everyday routines, visit our website at breathehale.com and subscribe to our mailing list!