Anxiety is usually just a lack of oxygen?!
This is what I quoted for years,
without having a real understanding about
the connection between ones breath,
and ones stress. I mean, it makes logical sense,
at first glance; we see that we and others,
hold our breath when feeling anxious,
and breathe evenly when calm and relaxed.
We can see that there is always a correlation
between our breathing and our stress.
This is because there is a direct link between our breathing
and our nervous system. By using our breath consciously,
we may gain more influence over our nerves, our experience
of stress and our overall state of mind.
Anyone who has studied yoga or meditation also discovers,
the power that breathing has to calm oneself,
invigorate oneself and to focus ones attention.
This year, I took a course on breathing from Stig Severinsen,
called, “Breatheology“. Stig says “relaxation is in the exhalation”.
This is the key, in using breath for alleviating stress and anxiety.
This is partially how breathing influences
our stress and Anxiety level
The part of our nervous system which we cannot control is called
the autonomous nervous system. The autonomous nervous system
runs our vital functions and has two branches; the sympathetic and
the parasympathetic pathways. The sympathetic is what governs
our “fight or flight” response (a survival mechanism, that releases
chemicals to prepare body and mind for action, raises blood pressure
and blood sugar, increases heart rate increases blood flow to muscles
but decreases blood to digestive system) and our parasympathetic is known
as our “rest and digest” response (the mechanism which is responsible
for activating the bodily duties which take place while we are at rest; such
as, digestion, sexual arousal, bodily fluids, cleansing and healing).
Optimally, these 2 pathways should be in
balance and complement one another.
Unfortunately, in society today, we spend much too much time in fight or flight response.
It can be triggered by our fast paced society, average daily stressful activities/work,
and sensory over-stimulation (movies, television, and internet).
It is unhealthy and like keeping any machine on full blast,
it wears down the system and causes other malfunctions.
In a human being it can have any number of bad consequences; including,
an unnecessary negative state of being and the experience of having “too much stress”.
When we inhale, the “fight or flight”
part of our nervous system is activated
and when we exhale, we activate the “rest and digest”
part of our nervous system.
Many peoples bodies do not spend enough time on repairing or truly resting
(healing, cleansing and digesting), because they are too busy with being in the “survival” mode,
while much of the time, it is not even necessary (I mean unless you actually are in a war or major crisis!).
When putting more emphasis on the exhalation, and the pause between inhalation and exhalation,
we activate this “rest and digest” part of our nervous system, which also has a job to
balance our body, after a fight or flight response. The goal would be to have more balance,
within our nervous system (body and mind). Naturally, it is much more complicated than this;
however, you may use simple breathing techniques, to experience a lot of relaxation
and discover an ability to actively influence your stress and anxiety levels.
This specific breathing exercise, I have found to be the most effective,
for relaxing and relieving anxiety and is an excellent all-around
“breathing exercise”, that you may try:
1) Lye on back and take a 6-12, long, deep breaths to prepare and begin to relax.
2) Breathe in through your nose, for a count of 4,
hold breath for a count of 6 and then breathe out
slowly (mouth or nose) for a count of 11.
If this length is difficult, adjust by shortening the
number of seconds for pausing and exhaling,
to where it is comfortable (and increase the time in future breathing sessions).
3) “Relaxation is on the exhalation”, Stig says; so, as you are holding your breath
and when you are exhaling, focus on your muscles relaxing.
You should feel them release, during the exhale.
4) Take a few relaxed breaths between each of these specific rhythmic breaths and repeat 6 times or more.
So, is “anxiety usually just a lack of oxygen”? Well we know that we can
influence our nervous system in a number of ways, by breathing in a particular way,
but Stig says that we have misconceptions over our “lack of oxygen”.
He says the strong urge we feel to take a breath,
when we hold our breath for a prolonged period, has more to do
about the buildup of carbon dioxide, then it does, the lack of oxygen!
Perhaps a better way of saying it would be “Anxiety in most cases,
can be alleviated by breathing properly”.
-Chandra Lee Krohn