Breathing for a Healthy Mind and Body

Photo: grateful thanks to Dawid Zawila on Unsplash!

by Connie Hernandez, ND

You’ve surely heard the old saw: “Breath is life.”

Yet few us devote much attention to our breathing patterns.

Have you noticed how your breathing changes when you’re excited or stressed, and how the breath becomes calm and regular once the crisis has passed and you’re able to exhale with a sigh of relief?

Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND
Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND

It’s a hint of the deep links between our breathing patterns and our emotions.

Spiritual seekers have long noticed how changing our breathing can radically affect our inner poise and well-being.

The secret link between the breath and mind is expressed by the name the ancients gave these practices: pranayama.

Pranayama means “energy control.” Energy is the link. Deliberate breathing directs energy in many beneficial ways.

Consider the practice known as Nadi Shodhana.

The instructions couldn’t be simpler. Start by blocking the right nostril with your thumb while exhaling and inhaling through the left nostril. Then switch sides – block the left nostril with the ring finger while exhaling and inhaling through the right nostril.

This simple exercise has profound effects.

  • It stabilizes body temperature
  • It soothes the nervous system
  • It promotes calmness and better sleep
  • It improves mental focus
  • It directs energy to revitalize the body.

Breathing Left or Breathing Right?

  • Breathing through the left nostril is cooling and calming. It enhances the creative activity of the right-brain.
  • Right-nostril breathing is warming and energizing. It enhances left-brain activity, including verbal performance.
  • Alternate nostril breathing balances these qualities.

Schools of breath training emphasize nose breathing to promote overall health. The nose performs many important functions in the body – it filters, warms, and moisturizes the air we breathe. It promotes the formation of nitric oxide (a vasodilator that helps lower blood pressure and decrease muscle soreness after exercise) and encourages deep, diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing:

  • Relaxes the body
  • Relieves anxiety and stress
  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improves delivery of oxygen to the organs
  • Slows the rate of breathing, inducing calmness

Inhaling through the mouth instead of exhaling through the mouth can adversely affect the body. “Mouth breathers” tend toward snoring, morning sore throats, un-refreshing sleep, gum disease, higher risk of cavities, and bad breath.

Daytime mouth breathing is even more damaging. Its consequences range from headaches to worsening of asthma, digestive disturbances such as acid reflux and constipation, and other medical issues, including high blood pressure.

In children, mouth breathing may result in changes to facial structure, affecting their appearance throughout their lives.

If you suffer from conditions that aren’t responding to normal treatment (e.g., gastric distress or essential hypertension), or if you’re constantly fatigued, yawning and sighing, or you suffer from odd chest and shoulder pains, it may be helpful to find out if your breathing is contributing to the problem.

Improve your breathing and you’ll retrain your mind and become healthier in all ways.

To learn about Dr. Connie’s work, follow the link to her Naturopathic Health Consultations website.

For information about the services we offer at Pacific Naturopathic, please give us a call at 650-961-1660, or use the convenient Contact Form to get in touch. Thank you!