Breathing happens automatically, so why give it any attention? Actually there are at least 175 reasons why! That is because this is the number of neurons in the brain which link breathing to relaxation, attention, excitement and anxiety. Located deep in the brainstem, the pre-Bötzinger complex (or preBötC) can pick up on the differences in how you are breathing and report back to the rest of the brain just how you are feeling.
But it is not the science that makes breathing important, it is what this science tells us about how breathing influences how we feel emotionally and how we can use this science to influence our emotional state that matters.
In particular we focus on the link between the preBötC and another brainstem structure which affects arousal, called the locus coeruleus with this neural circuit causing us to be anxious when we breathe rapidly, and calm when we breathe slowly.
As the scientist Jack Feldman a professor of neurology at UCLA who initially discovered the preBötC himself said “It’s a tie between breathing itself and changes in emotional state and arousal”
Discovering this for yourself simply begin with an awareness of how rapidly you breathe, making yourself consciously aware and reflecting on where your breathe stops.
In todays fast pasted, stressed out world breathing often ends just after it begins with the body barely even expanding, but to really see and feel the difference try taking a deep breath in to the slow count of four. Can you feel just how this differs from your normal breath? Did you even make it to four?
Use this comparison to identify how your body generally feels, recognising just how different the sensations are when you breathe in slowly and deeply. Just sensing this difference helps you to recognise your own natural breathing pace, and the message it transmits to the rest of your body.