Breathing and the Brain

How does the breath directly affect our brain function?  

Everybody knows that it is important to breathe because our brain needs a constant supply of oxygen – but did you know that you can use your breath to control certain areas of the brain? Surprisingly most of us know very little about the underlying mechanisms of how respiration modulates these processes. 

Imagine a time where you were anxious – your heart starts racing, your palms get sweaty, mouth goes dry, and thinking clearly becomes difficult. In this sympathetic state of fight-or-flight, the blood in the body is being shunted to our vital organs (heart/lungs) and large muscles so that we can flee and protect ourselves. In return, this will decrease blood flow to our outer surface of the brain known as the cortex. The cortex is associated with higher level processes such as thoughts, emotions, reasoning, and memory. By simply changing our breathing patterns we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to provide feedback to the cardiovascular and endocrine system. This allows the heartbeat to return back to normal, as well as reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol leading to a calmer state. 

Your breath and the autonomic nervous system are directly involved in a bidirectional pattern. The speed, depth and pattern of your breath communicates to the brain about our physical, emotional and cognitive state, and the body responds appropriately. 

How does slow breathing affect our brain?

Slow breathing techniques promote autonomic changes, increasing heart rate variability (HRV). Unlike our heart rate (HR), which is the beats per minute, the HRV is the fluctuation in the time intervals between adjacent heartbeats. The patterns of a healthy heart are complex and constantly changing, which allows the cardiovascular system to rapidly adjust to sudden physical and psychological changes. For example, the fluctuations in our heartbeat when changing positions from lying to standing. 

HRV provides a powerful means of evaluating the function of the autonomic nervous system by observing the relationship between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and can be improved with slow and controlled breathing exercises. 

Slow breathing also has a direct effect on respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). This is the heart rate variability in synchrony with breathing/respiration. The RSA has been used as an index of cardiac vagal function. The cardiac vagal control reflects the function of the vagus nerve, which is the main nerve controlling the parasympathetic nervous system. Research has shown that you can use cardiac vagal control as an indicator of self-regulation. Self regulation is the ability to understand and manage your behavior and emotions. Slow controlled breathing exercises increased the effectiveness of the RSA. 

What is diaphragmatic breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as abdominal breathing, is breathing that is done by contracting the deep structure within our thoracic cavity known as the diaphragm. This deep belly breathing utilizes the lower rib expansion and promotes full oxygen exchange, ensuring that an adequate amount of oxygen is taken in and all the carbon dioxide is expelled from the lungs. This type of breathing has a direct effect on the brain, cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems through the modulation of autonomic nervous functions. Utilizing diaphragmatic breathing can help you relax, lower the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol, decrease your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. 

What is the Rezzimax Tuner Pro?

The Rezzimax Tuner Pro is a resonance tool that uses specific frequencies to tune and relax your entire body. The tool consists of a variety of protocols to activate the vagus nerve by combining diaphragmatic breathing, and humming with frequencies of vibrations placed underneath the collarbones in the path of the vagus nerve. 

The vagus nerve is also called  the “wanderer” because it is our longest cranial nerve from our brainstem. It travels from the deepest structures in our brain (brainstem) and travels through the base of the skull into the neck innervating structures from the head all the way down to the abdominal organs. The vagus nerve plays an important role in controlling our autonomic nervous system. This system is responsible for controlling breathing, oxygen levels, heart rate, digestion and more. 

How does CFNC utilize breath work in the office?

Whether utilizing the Rezzimax Tuner Pro or other breathing techniques such as 1:2 ratio or belly breathing, breath work is a common topic in office. When dealing with individuals with Dysautonomia or POTS, breath work can impact symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. 

If you would like more information about the benefits of Rezzimax Tuner Pro therapy or autonomic nervous system training, feel free to fill out a complimentary consultation form to speak with one of our doctors about why you may be a good candidate for services at our clinic.