Stop and Breathe
For over 2,500 years, Yogis and Buddhist claimed breathing influences the focus of the mind, and finally, science proves the neurophysiological link between the two. Research shows that breathing directly affects the levels of noradrenaline in the brain. Noradrenaline is a natural chemical messenger that is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused, or emotionally aroused. Studies suggest that with proper breathing exercises, you can sharpen your mind and improve your quality of life.
Effects of Meditation and Pranayama
In the experiment, carried out by researchers at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, a small area of the brain stem, called the locus coeruleus, was studied. The locus coeruleus is where noradrenaline is produced and noradrenaline, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, much like a fertilizer. The study showed that as you inhale, activity in the locus coeruleus slightly increases, and as you exhale, activity slightly decreases. When under stress, too much noradrenaline is produced and conversely, when feeling sluggish, too little is produced. Both result in a lack of focus.
These observations prove that controlled breathing can optimize noradrenaline levels while the brain is being stimulated. Principal Investigator of the study Ian Robertson summarized, “Our findings could have particular implications for research into brain aging. Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long-term meditators. More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia and mindful meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks. Our research offers one possible reason for this – using our breath to control one of the brain’s natural chemical messengers, noradrenaline, which in the right ‘dose’ helps the brain grow new connections between cells. This study provides one more reason for everyone to boost the health of their brain using a whole range of activities from aerobic exercise to mindfulness meditation.”
Read the full report here: Coupling of respiration and attention via the locus coeruleus: Effects of meditation and pranayama
Each of us has the responsibility to be stewards of our world. Something as simple as sharing knowledge can have a huge impact.