Neuroscience Evidence of Pranayama – Influence of Breath over Mind
Neuroscience is now discovering what Yogic science has known for many millennia – the influence of breath over the mind.
Verse 29 in Chapter 4 of ancient yogic text called “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” says:
इन्द्रियाणां मनो नाथो मनोनाथस्तु मारुतः । मारुतस्य लयो नाथः स लयो नादमाश्रितः हठयोग प्रदीपिका (अध्याय ४, श्लोक २९)
Indriyānām mano nātho manonāthastu mārutah
Mārutasya layo nāthah sa layo nādamāśritah Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Chapter 4, Verse 29)
The meaning of the verse goes like this – “The Mind (मन) is the master of Senses (इन्द्रि), and the Breath (मारुत) is the master of the Mind. Rhythm (लय), which in turn depends on the vibrations (नाद) of respiration (inhalation/exhalation), masters the Breath.”
We not just inhale O2 and exhale CO2, but what we breathe (called “Prana” in Yogic science) is subtler than that. It has influence beyond the physical and physiological states of humans. Our breathing is linked to higher states of awareness – emotions, psyche, consciousness, and spirituality.
Yogic texts suggest that the practice of Pranayama should not be considered as mere breathing exercise aimed at strengthening the respiratory system. Pranayama utilizes our breath to influence the flow of Prana in the Energy Channels (called “Nadis”) to influence higher states of awareness.
A recent study in the Northwestern University reports that the rhythm of breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgments.
Some of the highlights of this research:
- the rhythm of breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgment
- breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behavior
- whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth has a significant influence
- when you inhale, you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex (smell processing), amygdala (emotion processing) and hippocampus (memory processing) – all across the limbic system. This means the memory store and recall are higher for events that occur where you inhale than when you exhale. The memory store and recall are lower when you breathe through the mouth
- when you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster. As a result, you spend proportionally more time inhaling than when in a calm state. Thus, our body’s innate response to fear with faster breathing could have a positive impact on brain function and result in faster response times to dangerous stimuli in the environment
Here is the link:
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