How to use Breath to eliminate Mental Stress

Stress is a mental condition, wherein one is conditioned to overthink about problems, life challenges, old negative memories, past mistakes or the apprehensions about the future.

Stress can turn into anxiety, which can, in turn, get out of hand and create severe mental health issues in someone’s life. There are millions of people, just in the United States, who are prescribed anti-anxiety and antidepressants, which really means, we are not living with mental sanity or we have no specific method to take care of our mental and emotional health.

There are many tools and methods which can help us create a lifestyle free of stress, conflicts, and emotional turbulence. In today’s world, we can access the information related to simple and effective methods, such as exercising, jogging, journaling, social engagement, timeline schedules, and disciplined sleeping habits. These are some of the factors we all take into account and have heard about them over and over again.

So far, we have also heard about ‘deeper breathing’, as a practice to curb unwanted tension and stress in our body. It has been recommended by the psychologists and many other mental health care practitioners to follow on the regular basis. Though deeper breathing is effective, it’s not the complete science in itself.

There is a higher level science and technology which allows us to use the full potential of breath to cultivate the relaxation in our nervous system, thereby activating, parasympathetic nervous system. This practice is called PRANAYAMA.

As the word suggests, pranayama is made up of two words, Prana and Yama. In Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Pranayama is clarified as “pranic capacity or length”, which is not merely the breath control but the technique through which prana in the body is activated at a higher frequency.

Through the practice of pranayama, various systems in our body are affected and start to perform at it’s best abilities. Below are the body systems which immediately start to get an impact as we begin to practice pranayama breathing.

1. Nervous System
2. Endocrine System
3. Digestive System
4. Cardiovascular System
5. Respiratory System

When we talk about the accumulation of stress in our life, it’s a two-way sword. If you are stressed, then automatically all these above-mentioned systems will get a setback and they tend to deviate from their normal course. Alternatively, if any of these systems are disturbed and are not working in an optimal manner, then you might encounter mental stress as well.

By cultivating yoga and pranayama breathing, we consciously use the breath to alter our physical and mental systems. Breathing deeper and slower, allows our body to get fully oxygenated and exhaling fully helps in the elimination of carbon dioxide and toxins in the body.

  • Prana (the vital life force) and breath are interconnected. If the mind or prana becomes unstable then breath also becomes shallow and faster and if the mind is stable, then breath also becomes longer, slower and harmonious. It’s true vice versa as well. So, in pranayama technique, we use the breath to stabilize the mind by adopting various breath modifications and work on calming down the agitated and restless mind.
  • Using the pranayama techniques, the nervous system impulses become steady and rhythmic, the brain functions get regulated and rhythmic as well.
  • Our breathing process is directly linked to the central nervous system and also with the emotional center of the brain, called hypothalamus. Hypothalamus is responsible for checking the validity of the emotional trigger and control the emotional response. If the breathing is erratic, it sends out the erratic signals to the hypothalamus and thus creates distorted responses which further make the brain function erratic. So, breathing plays a huge role in creating harmony in the body systems, thereby inducing relaxation, calmness and further positive hormone secretion.

Once, we put awareness on our breath and using the technology of pranayama and we are able to hold or restrain the breath even for a few seconds, we somehow reduce the firing of nervous impulses in different parts of the body and harmonize the brain wave pattern.

Mental agitation can be curtailed by increasing the gap between nerve impulses and their responses in the brain. The more we are able to retain the breath, the more the gap gets increased between the nerve impulses.

Thus, breath is the prime anchor to get access to the mind’s stability and harmony. With the practice of techniques such as Ujjayi Pranayama, Nadi Shodhna, and Brahmari, you can easily activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is also called, rest and digest. It counters the sympathetic nervous system which basically makes the mind hyperactive towards emotional responses.

Controlled inhalation and exhalation combined with retention is the key to bring the awareness inward and disconnect from the pattern of overthinking, mental agitation, anxiousness, and restlessness. The more one practice pranayama, the more benefit he gets in terms of building a stronger body and mind along with significant improvement in the digestive system, respiratory system and overall immunity of the body.