Breath is the key to health, it is what keeps us alive, when we are born we take our first breath, as we pass, we take our last. Life cannot exist without breath. Breath work is often overlooked as an essential part of health and wellness. It is right under our nose, available to us at any time, anywhere, and the cost is nil. Our society has become a society of “rapids”. A society of “magic bullet cures”. The pharmaceutical magic pill is now often replaced by a natural supplement magic pill, yet is our health improving? Without the basic fundamentals in place, it is very difficult to heal the body. Breath is one of those keys and there is no treatment, or remedy, or supplement that will take its place.
Breath is slow to master, it is rhythmic, it can bring up uncomfortable hidden emotions, it takes conscious daily effort and no pill can replace its efficacy.
Surprisingly, most of us do not know how to breathe correctly. Most of us breathe in a rhythm that matches patterns engrained during the birthing process or early childhood. A baby can experience birth trauma; placenta cut before the lungs are ready; affected by trauma or external emotions or anxieties of the parents. A baby breathes with its entire body. Big belly breaths and no other part of the body is moving. The baby, when lying on it’s back, breaths whole body breaths, belly out, belly down.
During the course of our upbringing there can be a time where there is fear, or emotions or trauma or simply the baby is mimicking breath patterns of the parents. If the parents are breathing inefficiently, so continues the pattern. Picture the “hunter-gatherer” in the wild, being chased by a wild animal, the response will be to run, shallow-quick breath is life saving and also very quiet! What else does our breath do in a fight or flight state? It becomes as quiet as possible in order to keep us safe from harm. Often if our breath is programmed for a fear state, we are unaware that this pattern continues over the years, resulting in a chronically stressed body.
When the breath is inefficient and shallow the Vagus nerve is hyper stimulated; our reptilian brain is also triggered, signaling there is eminent stress and the body will therefore operate on stress mode at every hour of every day. It can make for a really difficult day, it can make for chronic muscle pain, inflammation, toxic overload, racing monkey brain thoughts, inability to stay present, chronic future thinking, catastrophic thinking, chronic past thoughts thinking, chronically projecting thoughts, digestive issues, asthma, depression, mood imbalance, insomnia, hormone dysregulation, adrenal imbalance, issues of control, issues of letting go – literally all chronic health conditions are associated with inefficient breath.
As a Naturopathic Doctor practicing with Unda Drainage remedies, the function of the remedies is to detoxify the body at a cellular level. The remedies enhance toxic release via: bowels, urination, skin, and lungs. The remedies work unbelievably well and I see health-restored daily during patient visits. However, did you know that over 70% of toxins are released via the Lungs?
And toxic removal via the bowels, urination and skin collectively make up the remaining 30%. This is incredible. Each patient with any symptom regardless of the diagnosis does not detoxify properly. Which to me, no signifies
that each patient does not breath efficiently.
Breath work calms the nervous system by relaxing the body and mind. Life can be stressful, I always tell patients, we cannot change stressors around you and in your life, but we CAN change how your body responds to the stress.
Just think, what do we often do after a stressful scenario at home is resolved, plop down on the couch and SIGH. The sigh! The sigh is the body’s way of relaxing itself. That breath reflex will calm the body down in a stressful scenario. I was taught that the Yawn reflex is one of the most powerful yet suppressed reflexes in the body. As a society in North America, we have learned that yawning is rude, it symbolizes we aren’t stimulated, we aren’t paying attention, we are tired, etc. However, as a breath practitioner, yawning reflex we need to harness. Yawn big, drop and open your jaw and yawn big and as much air as you can, do it several times a day, if it isn’t an authentic yawn fake it until you can trigger a real one. This yawn reflex triggers waves of relaxation in the body. So lets use it as a tool of relaxation, BEFORE the stress hits.
Incorporate yawns several times a day. The diaphragm is the large muscle that sits under the lungs. When it is pulled down, air comes into our lungs, when it is pushed up; air is squeezed out of our lungs. The diaphragm is another breath reflex we need to reconnect too. Trying to make a daily practice to breath daily. I did not realize how hard this would be for me. I held my breath all day. I held my breath with any stress; when people would ask me questions; when I was thinking; when I was listening; during physical exercise, all day multiple times per day.
I encourage everyone to start to incorporate daily breath work several times per day. I started to breathe at every red light while driving; Breath between patients; breath in the shower; breath while washing the dishes; any free time I could fit it in, I would. And it felt so unnatural. Push past the discomfort, it gets easier. Conscious deep belly breaths means as you inhale your belly expands. Try to take as deep of a breath as possible. As you exhale, try to exhale as complete as possible. Don’t control the exhale, let it go, allow the exhale to be passive. Continue this rhythm. No breaks in between, breathe as a continuous loop, inhale and exhale. Ensure the shoulders are not moving, the neck is not moving, and the breath is going to the belly not the upper chest. This will trigger the diaphragm reflex and also calm the nervous system. It is as simple as 10 minutes of conscious breath work per day + fitting in conscious breaths as many times per day as listed above.
Breath is the gateway to accessing the deeper emotions of the body. Breath gives locked up emotions a door.
With deeper breath work or “rebirthing breath work” the theory is that there is an innate healing capability of the body; through breath we can tap into this self-healing reflex and the breath, like a sponge will suds up everything inside and allow it to safely and easily be washed away.
No conversation necessary – deep emotions and trauma can release and heal via breath work. Mastery of the Breath is a path to Self-Mastery. Breath work pioneers all note that all high performing athletes and persons of high power positions – have mastered their breath. The purpose of the breath work is to calm the body. When we calm the nervous system, the stress hormone Cortisol from the Adrenals, is regulated. We can absolutely control Cortisol levels via breath work.
This relaxes the body; we are more present and not in fear based ruminating thoughts. It is impossible to overthink in a deep breath work session. Breath silences the mind. Breath calms pain in the body. It opens our hearts, it is linked to love. It decreases inflammation. Breath calms the Vagus nerve. A conscious breather will be far less reactive in daily life; conscious breath work releases fearful/anxious thinking. Much does not rattle a conscious breather; breath is the bridge between your body and mind. Studying health and healing and the origin of disease, it is very clear to me that the key is to manage our Cortisol levels, when I learned breath work it simply reaffirmed my finding and gave me a tool to correct it. I am currently training to become a Certified Breath work Practitioner under my amazing teacher, Dan Brule.
Dan is actually the breath coach for Tony Robbins! Dan is a pioneer in the field and study of breath work. Upon our first meeting he diagnosed my imbalanced breath within minutes of meeting him. I embarked on my healing journey at 16 years of age, to take my health into my own hands and heal my body from life threatening asthma, chronic eczema, and life threatening food allergies. Non-stop determination to heal via the help of Alternative Medical practitioners since I was 16. Each year closer and closer to my goal of healing, but, not once did anyone catch my incorrect breathing. My breath was emergency fear breath. This past February, I travelled to Mexico to learn breath work with Dan; realizing it was a full circle moment.
The journey to treat my Asthma was the destination. It was right under my nose the entire time. It has been a wild ride this journey of healing, and one that has made me the practitioner I am today.
Breath work is a beautiful ancient modality that has transformed my life. Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga, Martial Arts, Singing, Athletics, Dancing, Meditation – for centuries breath work is a known source of power, self-healing and self-mastery.
Aim to make conscious breath a daily habit. If it is incorporated for 10 minutes a day, non-negotiable just like showering, it will transform your life. And if you are interested in going deeper into healing – book an appointment for a “Rebirthing Breath work” session, I would be happy to assist!
Dr. Neetu Dhiman