SPOILER ALERT! • Your breath is a reflection of your emotional state of mind • Because of this connection, you can manage your emotions through your breath • For example, yogic breathing helps reduce anxiety by stimulating the secretion of saliva • Among other things, saliva contains a protein called NGF that protects nerve cells from the damage inflicted by stress
Our mind is an expansive entity that is often thought of as being inaccessible through tangible means – excluding opening the brain of course. As a result it is often believed that the mind is uncontrollable, engendering many a worry such as your typical go to phrase, “My mind is out of control!”
YOUR BREATH IS THE LINK TO YOUR MIND
Yet, the mind cannot travel on its own, it requires a vessel to materialize outside of the bony encasement that is the skull, and to do that it recruits the breath with its multitude of intricate and strategic pathways. Aside from its unequivocal function of maintaining us alive, breathing is also the means by which our mind finds expression through the body, more specifically the state of our mind is actually reflected through our breathing patterns. For example, if we are experiencing anxiety, our breathing becomes shallow with saccadic patterns, but if we are relaxed we breathe more deeply and more slowly.
Yogic sciences have always understood this connection between mind and breath, and thus breathing has always been a crucial component in the practice of yoga, more like a tool to help take control of the mind. More specifically yogic breathing, which is a breathing pattern that builds from diaphragmatic breathing, has been touted to have anxiolytic effects. There exists various techniques of yogic breathing, but it is essentially a three-stage process in which a different part of the breathing machine is activated in succession .
THE EFFECTS OF YOGIC BREATHING ON MIND & BODY
Dr Sundar Balasubramanian, a biochemist whose research focuses on the medical advantages of yoga as a practice, uncovered the mechanism behind the anxiolytic effect of yogic breathing at the cellular level. His research indicates that yogic breathing actually stimulates the secretion of saliva, which contains various proteins that have health benefits on the body. One such protein is Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which as its name indicates promotes the growth of brain cells (neurons), but it also protects them from stress and strengthens them. For example, NGF is found in lower concentration in Alzheimer’s patients, which implicates the role of this protein in various neuronal pathways. Nonetheless, NGF is only one of 22 other proteins released in saliva that have health benefits and that contributes to longevity.
These findings have practical implications for people suffering from emotional disorders, such as depression and anxiety in particular, because it provides a variety of treatment alternatives to help reduce their symptoms. For example, anxiety sufferers could find other ways of stimulating saliva secretion other than actual breathing such as chanting, humming, or even producing vibratory sounds.
Taking control of your mind is no longer an impossible feat, because we can and we do. It is just a matter of understanding and tweaking the mechanism through which it operates.
Balasubramanian, S. (2015). The Science Of Yogic Breathing [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIfwbEvXtwo