As heard on NPR’s Morning Edition earlier this week, breathing has been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system — and maybe even the expression of genes.
Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, says that breathing can have a profound impact on our physiology and our health.
“You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,” Golubic says. “There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions — they benefit.”
He’s talking about modern science, but these techniques are not new. In India, breath work called pranayama is a regular part of yoga practice. Yoga practitioners have used pranayama, which literally means control of the life force, as a tool for affecting both the mind and body for thousands of years.
Breathing exercises can have immediate effects by altering the pH of the blood, or changing blood pressure. They can be used as a method to train the body’s reaction to stressful situations and dampen the production of harmful stress hormones.