We can all attest to the value of taking a deep breath when life gets stressful. There are moments when stopping and counting to ten can do wonders. It turns out, this combination of breathing and counting can actually change the physiology of our body.
A body riddled with inflammation is a one that is susceptible to a host of ills; heart disease, gut issues, and depression to name a few. There are lifestyle changes that will help lower inflammation, and a study out of the Medical University of South Carolina, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, shows that pranayama, the ancient breath practice based on yogic science, can help lower cytokines in our body.
Cytokines are molecules produced by the body to signal cells, especially in the immune system, on how to respond. The cytokines tested were those that are pro-inflammatory, or signaling the body to increase inflammation, taken from the saliva of participants during and after the timed experiment. Participants who were not practicing pranayama we quietly reading.
Those in the Yogic Breathing group were taught the following pranayama series by a yoga instructor. Try it yourself to upgrade your next “take a deep breath and count to ten” moment.
- Start in a seated position, with eyes closed.
- Take a deep breath in through both nostrils.
- Exhale while making the sound “Om.”
- Continue for ten minute.
- Close the right nostril and inhale through the left nostril for a count of two.
- Close both nostrils and hold breath for a count of eight.
- Close the left nostril and exhale fully through the right nostril for a count of four.
- Repeat the sequence for ten minutes.
While legions of practitioners can speak to how yoga and pranayama have changed their lives and helped them handle stress, researchers are only beginning to understand the process. Understanding our bodies, and how to help them modulate what we do on a daily basis, gives us the tools for living a long and healthy life.