Breathing is one of the most important basic functions of the body and thus an essential source of vitality. Man breathes an average of 20,000 times per day. Research shows that 80% of the people only use 30% of the available lung capacity. Many people use only the top of the lung by unconsciously applying chest breathing. The lower part of the lung has almost ten times more blood vessels as the top. The ability of the body to absorb oxygen from the air is therefore much larger if through abdominal breathing the entire lung is used. People generally use a fraction of the full capacity of their lungs. The sub-optimal use of breathing and the lungs leads to physical and mental dysfunctioning.
The main physical effect of breathing is the flow of oxygen to the lungs and the drain of carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is a breakdown product of the respiration (metabolism) in the cells of the body. Each cell has enough oxygen to function properly. Oxygen is the fuel for the cell. The effective dissipation of carbonic acid is very important in order to help regulate the acidity of the body. The optimal acidity of the body is located within close and critical limits. The activity of the billions of enzymes that stimulate the biochemical reactions in the body depends on the acidity. If the acidity is not optimal, then the enzymes will work less optimal. A suboptimal functioning of the enzyme system has an extremely negative effect on the functioning of the endocrine system and the immune system. An optimal breathing technique is therefore very important for the energy supply for the cell, maintaining the right acid/base balance in the body and for the optimal functioning of a number of important bodily functions such as the endocrine system and the immune system.
Servan Schreiber writes in his book The Brain as Medicine:
The human has two brains, the emotional brain, the basis for the emotional intelligence and the cognitive brain the basis for the rational (logical) intelligence. The emotional brain is sometimes characterized as the limbic system, the physiological system that maintains body functions: breathing, blood pressure, appetite, sleep, libido, the secretion of hormones and the immune system. The emotional brain has the ability to disable the cognitive brain (fright, fight, flight response), in which case the cognitive brain loses the ability to steer behavior. Then reflexes and instinctive actions directly take over. As emotions become too intense, the priority the emotional brain takes over the cognitive brain controls us mentally and physically.
He further writes:
Because the body is the main playing field of the emotional brain, an emotional stalemate translates in a disruption of the respiratory rhythm and heart rhythm. That disruption leads to a distortion of the overall biorhythms of the body. In the long term that translates to all kinds of physical problems. Symptoms of this are the classic stress signals such as: fatigue, high blood pressure, recurring colds, flu and other infectious diseases.
Life experiences that leave a painful or negative emotional impression (trauma) can at any time in the future be reactivated if warranted by external circumstances. If there are many of those impressions in one person present, then that will often give rise to emotional reactions, in which the emotional brain takes control. If the emotional brain reacts in this way, often we speak of low emotional intelligence. Daniel Coleman introduced the concept of emotional intelligence in the 1990s. Emotional intelligence is the ability of an individual to place external events by conscious observation in a context and to determine his or her response to them from that “awareness”. One speaks of a high emotional intelligence or a developed consciousness when people are well capable of controlling their primary reactions, and are able to put experiences into perspective. If the consciousness is not consciously developed then the emotional experiences of our past traumas are triggered and re-experienced unconsciously each time in the same way.
The external circumstance that trigger us will be personally experienced and as such be translated to the internal system. The consequence is that the respiratory rhythm and heart rhythm are then often is disrupted, with all the physical consequences. Frequent disturbances of heart and breath rhythm are experienced as negative stress. Experiencing negative stress is thus strongly related to the emotional intelligence of the individual. The famous Institute of Heartmath in California has done 10 years of research into the influence of emotions on the heart rhythm and on the consequences it has on our health. This research showed that negative emotions disrupt the heart rhythm, but also that positive past experiences synchronize the heart rhythm again.
Learning to synchronize the heart rhythm is a very effective method to neutralize the effects of negative emotions experienced unconsciously. Likewise, the research at the Heartmath Institute showed that regular heart rhythm synchronization exercises greatly reduce the susceptibility to traumatic past experiences. In other words:
Regularly performed heart rhythm and/or breath rhythm synchronization exercises are effective methods to develop the emotional intelligence and consciousness.
Because the heart rhythm and the respiratory rhythm are attached directly to one another, performing breathing exercises regularly also is a very effective method to raise the emotional intelligence, and to develop the consciousness.
Shri Shri Ravi Shankar, the leader of the global Art of Living Foundation says:
Rather than allowing the emotions to alter the breath (and cause unhealthy physiological changes) one can skillfully use the breath to transform one’s emotional state.
The heartbeat of people under normal circumstances is between 50–90 beats per minute depending on the body’s physical condition. The normal respiratory rate for an adult varies between 12 and 16 times a minute. A healthy synchronizing breathing rhythm is characterized by:
This healthy breathing leads to a harmonic heart rhythm, which is characterized by:
Scientific research at the Institute of Heartmath in California has shown that synchronizing the heart rhythm characterized by a harmonious HRV (Heart Rate Variability) has a very positive impact on health, vitality and the ability to deal with stress. The practice of synchronizing the heart rhythm is the most effective way to manage the emotional brain and to optimize bodily functions under all circumstances. Practicing slow breathing with a frequency between 6–8 breaths per minute is a very effective method to establishing heart synchronization.
A large number of studies that were carried out by various universities in India, commissioned by the Art of Living Foundation, have shown that the regular practice of low frequency breathing had a positive influence on:
It is valuable that one learns to improve and monitor his/her vitality with regular help of the BreathingApp so that the lifestyle intervention receives a sustainable character. BreathingApp teaches the user via audio controlled biofeedback, the correct rhythm of the low frequency breathing. Through regular use of the BreathingApp the user synchronizes the breath and heart rhythms, reducing the sensitivity of painful negative emotional experiences, increasing the emotional intelligence, developing consciousness, stimulating the endocrine system, optimizing the acid-base balance and the immune system.