The breath of the brain
The human brain is a fascinating organ.
It connects and connects voluntary and involuntary physical functions, memory, emotional reactions and it is likewise deeply correlated with some aspects of the subconscious, which science and medicine are trying to dissect.
What Yogis have already known for thousands of years is that if the brain is the command centre of the system, the spine is the magic wand through which the brain interacts with the body, the vehicle that allows us to experience this existence in all its magnificence.
The entire system of nerves and tendons, glands, veins, muscles, bones, internal tissues, fibres, runs from the spine.
Moreover, what is the key to man’s access to this inner universe?
Anatomy in pills
The brain is divided into two hemispheres, right and left, connected at the centre by a corpus callosum which is the remnant of the most ancient brain we have, the reptilian brain.
The two hemispheres respectively govern the opposite side of the body and are connected and balanced by the work of the corpus callosum.
On a general level, we can say that the left brain hemisphere is “the engineer”. Besides being specialised in the linguistic processes, it commands in subsequent ones and in the perception-management of the events that follow each other over time, such as the logical concatenation of thought; in other words, the brain engineer is more qualified in the analytical perception of reality.
The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is the “poet”, more specialised in visual elaboration and perception of images, in their spatial organisation and emotional interpretation; more briefly, the global and global perception of stimuli belongs to the poet’s brain.
The dominant role of the left hemisphere in linguistic processes, both written and oral, could mistakenly suggest that this area has essential or “elevated” functions than the right hemisphere: numerous studies have shown how the two cerebral hemispheres present different specializations, all fundamental in the realization of cognitive processes and the construction of thought in the broadest sense.
As for brain and hemispheres, the nervous system is divided into central and peripheral.
The peripheral, which from the central (hemispheres and sub-hemispheres) unwinds throughout the body descending through the spine, divide in turn into Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.
Sympathetic, responsible for the “Fight or Escape” reaction (mainly connected to the left hemisphere)
The sympathetic system has a stimulating, exciting, contracting function: it presides over the attack and flight adaptation system, preparing the body to face the danger. A violent and unexpected noise in the dark, the scream of a friend jokingly appeared suddenly, are examples of stressful situations that lead to a massive activation of the sympathetic system. In a few moments, the heart increases the force, and the contractile frequency, the bronchi, the pupil and the blood vessels of the appendicular muscles and the coronary system are dilated, while the glycogenolysis is stimulated in the liver. At the same time, in order to prepare the body for the next physical activity, the digestive processes are significantly slowed down, while the cutaneous and peripheral blood vessels are forced and the arterial pressure increases. The bladder relaxes while the sphincter narrows (inhibits urination).
Parasympathetic, Rest and Digest (mainly connected to the right hemisphere).
The parasympathetic system stimulates quietness, relaxation, rest, digestion and energy storage. Following the stimuli of the parasympathetic system, increase the digestive secretions (salivary, gastric, biliary, enteric and pancreatic), the peristaltic activity is enhanced, the pupil narrows, the heart rate decreases, the bronchi are forced, and the urination is favoured.
There is not a good or bad hemisphere: the human being passes from one to another, on average every 90 minutes, but regardless of specific needs of everyday life, what makes us present, in a joyful and peaceful apparently meaningless state, but at the same time focused and focused, is the balance of the two hemispheres. The moment in which the corpus callosum perfectly connects functions, cognition, conscious and subconscious, without the chatter of the mind about present and past, influence the state of things.
It is also, biologically speaking, the goal of meditation.
What does all this have to do with breathing?
Through specific pranayama techniques, we can consciously access the reactions and responses of the two hemispheres, impacting the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
We can have access to an extra charge of energy if appropriate, and on the other hand, release stress and adrenaline in excess, favouring a feeling of stability and calm for body and mind.
These specific techniques have been part of the science of traditional Hatha Yoga for millennia, and all of this serves to prepare body and mind for Meditation, and out of Practice, to achieve the best version of ourselves in this human life.
Learning even the most basic techniques will make everyday life better, because only through a few minutes of correctly performed and focused breathing, we can connect to the reality of the present moment, in a way that remains imprinted in the nervous system through neuronal mapping.
Effects of counted Inhalation, exhalation and breath retention are messages that the brain translates into electrical signals, signals that neurons record as permanent messages to nervous systems.
What does this mean in practice? The more we practice these techniques, the more significant the feeling of balance we will develop and consequently we will bring back into everyday life.
In the article that follows, we will analyse in practice these techniques, related to the two hemispheres and the nervous system, but to evolve it is necessary to start from the basics.
The next step will be to learn the “yogic breath”, the foundation of all the techniques, that is how we should breathe, always.