BREATHE For Your Own Good
By Nymph Kellerman
During the last few decades, Western Universities have become interested in the various techniques of deep relaxation and the effects it has on the body. During a deeply relaxed state, the heart rate slows down, there is a lowering in blood pressure, a decrease in oxygen consumption, a reduction in the blood lactate (high levels are associated with anxiety), and last but not least, the electrical activity of the brain changes. In recent years it was discovered that the brain has the ability to change its vibrations and in doing so, changes behaviour as well as involuntary functions of internal organs.
The largest part of the brain is called the cerebral cortex and it comprises about 80% of the brain. It is concerned with our conceptual thinking and motor functions. It houses a number of lobes with overlapping thinking, sensory and memory tasks. For our purpose we need to be aware of the two cerebral hemispheres (almost like two separate brains), connected to each other by the corpus callosum (an intricate web of fibres). These hemispheres are largely responsible for different intellectual functions.
The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and specializes in processing logical, mathematical and analytical information.
The right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and specializes in processing visual, sensory and emotional information.
It is important to realize that the two hemispheres interact, with the result that not all logical functions are processed by the left-hemisphere and not all creative functions are processed by the right-hemisphere.
Electrical activity of the brain can be measured and seen on an electroencephalogram (EEG). Electrodes, attached to a recording device, are placed on a person's scalp to record the brain's electrical activity. These electrodes are not sensitive enough to detect individual action potentials, but can detect the simultaneous action potentials in large numbers of neurons. As a result, the EEG displays wavelike patterns known as brain waves.
CLASSIFICATION OF BRAIN WAVES:
K COMPLEX - measures at 33 and above cycles per second, a state of very high anxiety.
HIGH BETA - 23 - 33 cycles per second, a very tense state in which it is difficult to e rational.
BETA - 14 - 22 cycles per second. It is the awake-state of physical alertness when the mind and emotions respond to the senses. It is associated with tension and striving.
ALPHA - 7 - 14 cycles per second. In the alpha state a person is deeply relaxed with the mind completely awake. (I call this state the "golden state - this is as good as it gets. In this state you change your world, you make your dreams come true and you change yourself).
THETA - 3.5 - 7 cycles per second. The state for night-time sleep. Everybody experiences theta twice every normal day - when falling asleep and when waking up in the morning.
DELTA - measures at 0.5 - 3.5 cycles per second. Delta is profound sleep. Dreams take place in delta, as well as regeneration and cell renewal.
Deep breathing slows down the electrical activity of the brain and in doing so, it becomes a powerful relaxation technique that promotes healing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.
But-how-does-one-breath-correctly"".? The diaphragm is a large dome of muscles that separates the thoracic (chest) cavity from the abdominal cavity. When the muscles of the diaphragm contract, the dome is flattened, increasing the volume of the thorax (chest). During conscious deep breathing, the respiratory muscles contract more forcefully, causing a greater increase in thoracic volume.
Test yourself with this little exercise:
Place one hand on the chest and one just above the middle. Inhale and notice which hand moves the most. If the hand on your chest moves, you do upper-lung breathing, in other words, shallow breathing.
Teach and train yourself to breathe correctly by doing the following exercise:
Sit in an upright chair with the spine straight and the eyes closed, feet flat on the floor a few inches apart. Hands relaxed and in a comfortable position in the lap. Take a long, slow, deep breath and hold for a count of 3. Exhale and feel how the body relaxes. Repeat three times. Become aware of your breathing consciously slowing it down. Concentrate only on your breath, breathing deeply until you feel still and at peace. Breathe deeply for approximately 20 minutes.
About The Author
Nymph Kellerman was born in Cape Town. She studied music at the university of Port Elizabeth, and completed her L.T.C.L. in 1972. In the late seventies she obtained a B.A. Psychology and Philosophy at the University of South Africa (UNISA), as well as a Licentiate in Drama at the same university.
She trained as formal singer under various renowned vocal advisers such as Fred Dalberg (Cape Town), Sarie Lamprecht (Johannesburg), George Fourie (Pretoria) and Dame Vera Roscha (Covent Garden, London). She toured with the British singing couple Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth for three years, and performed in a variety of concerts and operettas. She remained a freelance singer for many years during which time she performed in numerous concerts, recitals, and oratorios.
After a car accident that lead to a few neuro surgeries and predictions of severe and aggressive chronic pain of the cervical spine, she commenced in an investigation of the benefits of deep relaxation. The investigation took her through the fields of Cosmology, Theology, Physics and Psychology. She turned to writing on the subjects of deep breathing, relaxation, and meditation, and became the founder and CEO of the Institute for Breath Awareness.
At present she is committed to writing, and presents seminar-workshops in deep breathing in and around Johannesburg and Pretoria.