Ep#045 The Healing Power of the Breath – Nourish and Heal Body, Mind & Spirit
Breath is the basic life sustaining process. But it is truly so much more. And what a shame if we never learn the deeper healing powers of our breath. When we train our breath, we step into the command center of our health and well being. Conscious focused breathing enables you to feel the pleasure of being alive and gives you the grace and resilience to ride out life’s inevitable challenges. Listen in on this reflection and come away with a fresh inspiration on just how powerful you really are when it comes to creating genuine health and happiness.
Want to learn more about the healing power of the breath? Check out my upcoming 7 week live virtual Group: Spring Into Spring Total Body Rejuvenation: that starts March 17th
A genuinely holistic approach to support your body for the transition into the Spring season with Cleansing Foods, Therapeutic Yoga, Breathing exercises, Meditation and Energy Healing.
Welcome to the Soul Science Nutrition podcast, where you’ll discover that when it comes to your health, you are so much more powerful than you’ve been led to believe. And now your host, she’s a holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach, chef author, and Yogi, Christine Okezie. Hello, and welcome to
Soul Science Nutrition Podcast. I’m Christine Okezie. Thanks so much for listening. So on today’s special solo show, I’m excited to talk about something I’m pretty passionate about. It’s the power of our breath. It’s the first thing we do when we come into this world. And it’s the last thing we do when we depart, we take it for granted because it really does happen automatically. I mean, there is an intelligence that breeds us, commands our hearts to pump circulates oxygen in our blood nourishing every organ, every cell of this organism in this regard breath really is this basic life sustaining process, but it really is so much more.
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And what a shame I feel if we never learned the true deeper healing powers of our own breath. When we train our breath, we step into the command center of our health and wellbeing, conscious focus, breathing, and enables you to feel the pleasure of being alive. And it gives you the grace and resilience to ride out life’s inevitable challenges. In fact, I remember learning as I was just starting out in my health coaching practice, hearing Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained doctor, who’s been a pioneer in holistic health. And when someone asked this very wise, man is the number one thing people can do that can make the most difference when it comes to improving their health.
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Now, you would think that it would be something like eat more greens or drink more water, move your body all super important of course, but Nope, Dr. Weil strongly believed that learning how to harness the power of our breath was the ultimate health tool. And in my coaching practice, even before I started teaching Kundalini yoga, teaching people how to train their breath has been fundamental to deep lasting positive lifestyle change. Here’s why, in a nutshell, you learn how to work with your central nervous system or more specifically the parasympathetic nervous system. The part of that autonomic nervous system that controls the relaxation response in the body, which by the way, happens to be the setting where the body heals repairs and restores itself.
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The best little background here, there’s something called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the largest nerve in the body, and it starts at the base of our brain and connects down into our gut and branches out. Every major in the body. The Vegas nerve is essentially the queen of the parasympathetic nervous system. And the more we do things that stimulate it, activate it such as deep breathing. The more we banish the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, AKA the fight or flight response. Now it just so happens that what actually triggers the Vegas nerve and supports this healing, relaxation response is exhalation.
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This is why long, deep breathing using our diaphragm, aka belly breathing is really powerful. The first thing I always check when I work with my clients is I notice their breathing. Are they breathing through their mouth? Is their breathing shallow kind of from the chest area? Because when we do that, when we breathe up in the upper chambers here of the chest, it’s a sign that there’s typically some sort of degree of fight or flight going on in the nervous system. Most of us actually breathe from the chest as adults. We’ve developed this paradoxical breathing style. As we got older, if you ever watched little babies sleeping, let’s say on their backs.
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And just remember that when they sleep their bellies rise, as they inhale and their bellies fall, as they exhale, this is how we are designed to breathe and over time in modern lifestyle. And we pick up bad habits along the way, but here’s the thing shallow breathing or breathing. Paradoxically sends a signal to the brain that not all as well. We’re stressed out. Alternatively, when we breathe deeply as if from the belly, this boosts respiration and shores, a rich supply of oxygen to the brain and the brain says, Oh, all is well, a simple breathing technique.
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The first one I learned actually way back, when is actually something called the four seven, eight. It’s super easy to remember, and it’s a super easy breathing technique. So allowing the eyes to close, inhale through the nose to a count of four, one, two, three, four, gently suspend the breath, keeping the body relaxed with no tension in the muscles of the face or upper body for a count of seven and then a long slow exhale through the nose to a count of eight, pulling the belly towards the spine to squeeze all the air out, try this four, seven, eight breath for three minutes.
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And just being with your breath, holding the intention of calm and peace. It’s a beautiful reset. Now, the breath we want to think of the breath as the key to neutralizing the number one threat to our health and wellbeing and no surprise that’s chronic stress. And by the way, when I talk stress and often kind of overused term, it’s really important. I think to clarify what we mean by that, because whether that’s emotional stress, let’s say the inability to accept uncertainty or major life changes or just negative self-talk or we’re talking perhaps about physical stress, like chronic pain, or maybe not getting enough good news or sleep.
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We are, we can talk. How about chemical stress, hormonal imbalances such as blood sugar problems, or even fighting off an infection? See whether the stress is internal or external, real or imaginary. The nervous system produces the same automatic fight or flight defensive reaction. The heart rate goes up. Blood pressure increases. There’s a whole cascade of hormonal changes that slows down digestion, metabolism, reproduction, suppresses our immunity and narrows our mental perception of reality. In other words, when the body gets stuck in this sympathetic nervous system dominance, which by the way, is unfortunately the predominant setting in our modern day lifestyle.
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Every system in the body gets disrupted. It sets the stage for chronic inflammation, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. It speeds up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. So with that said, can you really appreciate just how essential a health skill it is to learn how to work with our parasympathetic nervous system? And once again, it’s beautiful because the key lies readily within the breath. Now, when we look at the breath from an energetic or a yoga perspective, health and healing are inextricably linked to the breath because the breath math is how we circulate our Prana, our life force energy through the channels of our subtle body.
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Prana, hard to describe really think of it as the master form of all energy, working at every level of our being and when the energy channels are blocked and our Prana is not, we experience fear, worry, uncertainty, tension, and other negative emotions upon a level in our body is high and it’s flowing. It’s continuous and smooth. Then this organism feels calm, happy, and enthusiastic. Indeed the word pranayama, which we make synonymous in this culture with breathing techniques, think of it as the, the ability to expand, refine, and direct our vital life energy in the direction of our true wellbeing.
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Similarly from let’s say a Eastern healing or a traditional Chinese medicine lens. We look at the lungs so integral when it comes to the breath, right? Well, in traditional Chinese medicine, the lungs jest distribute life force energy as well or cheat in this regard to all the organs, think of the cheek, just like gasoline that’s required for a car to function and move. It’s that essential. So interesting to note that in traditional Chinese medicine, our lungs are a direct link to our immune system. The lungs circulate what’s called the defensive Qi on the surface of the body and within the muscles in the skin to protect and regulate body temperature.
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So according to traditional Chinese medicine, if the lung she is weak, our immune system is going to be weak and we would be prone to falling ill. In fact, if the exterior diseases are not resolved quickly, they enter the body through the lungs and become more challenging to treat. And I think we can kind of know this just experientially and intuitively, you know, how hard is to kind of shake like a respiratory infection, right? Or even a lingering cold. Once it gets into the lungs, there is an further interesting connection routine, the lungs and the breath when it comes to our digestion. So we get prana from the air that we breathe and the food that we eat.
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And when we do conscious breathing exercises, what we’re doing is we’re building the Prana, we’re building the pronic energy, which allows us actually to have the ability to make better choices in life, around health, including our food. So you can understand that conscious breathing actually, by giving us this natural source of energy to do other healthy things for ourselves, building this pronic vitality allows us to make healthier food choices and digest our food optimally. So learning to use the power of our breath is one of the most empowering things we can do when it comes to healing, because it gives us this direct access to impact our level of vitality.
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By oxygenating more efficiently, we support the detoxification process and we support and strengthen our immune system. Our breathing is also directly tied to our emotional state. So controlling the breath allows us to influence how we feel breathing is an effective tool for emotional self-regulation. We can tap into the power to internally generate feelings of calm, peace and mental clarity. And what’s really powerful is when we attend to our breath, it brings us into the present moment.
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It increases our self-awareness, which is fundamental to making those healthy lifestyle changes and interrupting those unwanted habits. Pranayama works on this very principle rather than allowing our emotions to change our breathing patterns by skillfully using our breath, we can actually transform our emotional States, given how difficult it is to control our emotions. When we use the body, when we use the pranayama breathing technique, we can transform and transmute negative emotions.
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And this becomes our most powerful tool for enhancing our wellbeing and our inner peace. So now that you understand how learning to work with the breath promotes healing on the physical and on that subtle energetic level, here’s an added super power that comes from training your breath. One that yogis have known for thousands of years and modern day mental health practitioners are adopting as well. See the breath is the easiest gateway to access, explore, and rewire. Our subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind is the realm of all the things that keep us from experiencing self-love contentment and genuine happiness.
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This is the realm of unexpressed or an unhealed emotions, negative thoughts, limiting beliefs, mental attachments, to, you know, persons and things that don’t support who we really are. And by learning to work, once again, consciously focusing our breath, we can make a direct connection to that autonomic nervous system. And then we gain access to a part of ourselves that is typically functioning outside of the conscious awareness. So for a lot of folks working with breathing techniques, in fact can be easier and more approachable than let’s say trying meditation.
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But here’s the thing, frankly, all conscious breathing techniques are a form of meditation. Why? Because they bring us into the power of the present moment. So breath work and meditation are what we would call embodiment practices. And by definition of dropping us into the body, cultivating that sensory awareness, this is the power that activates the body’s innate healing intelligence. Now the practice of yoga integrates meditative focus and movement of the body to shape the breath. In fact, in Kundalini yoga, we use mantra sound current or chanting.
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And when we do this with our mouth, we influenced the rhythm and the pattern, our breathing, and all of these tools could taken together, come to create very specific neurophysiological effects. They cultivate an expansive spacious mind to drop into a space that exists beyond the physical realm. If you will, which we can call perhaps spirituality, a connection to that infinite nature or universal consciousness. I share this only to explain that this is the awesome potentiality of working with the power of our breath.
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There are so many techniques way beyond the four seven, eight way beyond deep belly breathing. Some of them are alternate nostril, breathing, breath of fire, whistle, breathing. The menu has something for everybody and every situation. And while I do recommend learning pranayama practice under the guidance of a certified teacher, such as myself, you can get a very good instruction introduction online. Now there is no shortage of medical and scientific research showing that conscious breathing techniques have tremendous benefits for the mind and the body.
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And what’s pretty cool is no fancy gadgets required and not really any side-effects, but instead countless health benefits, especially when you make it a habit, see more than ever. We all need to care for ourselves on this deeper level. Breath work is a powerful way to clean up and restore ourselves. Literally from the inside out, you can breathe on your yoga mat when you’re stuck in traffic, having a stressful conversation or find yourself caught up in self judgment or negative self-talk. So I hope that’s been helpful and you’re inspired to see the breath Amma’s body, the design of this whole organism in a more wondrous and appreciative way.
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That is my passion. So if you’re wanting to learn more though, and have the experience of learning, how to work with the healing power of the breath, I want to let you know about my upcoming group experience. It’s a seven week live virtual program called Spring Into Spring, Total Body rRjuvenation. It’s a genuinely holistic approach to supporting our bodies. As we transition here in the East coast, into the spring season with cleansing foods, therapeutic yoga movements, breathing exercises, meditation, and energy healing. The info link is in the show notes as well as on my website www.energeticnourishment.com.
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Spring into Spring starts on March 17th. And you can choose from a daytime or evening session. I would love to see you there. So I hope you found this helpful my friends. And if you haven’t left a rating review, I’d be grateful if you did. And please hit that subscribe button so I can keep the podcast growing.
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Thanks so much be well, bye for now.