The Art of Breathing

Tadao Ogura, M.D.

                       

1. Body-Mind Unification

Many people suffer from a "disconnectedness" between their cognitive and physical processes that is, between their "mind" and "body." This is especially noticeable in people suffering from an addiction of some sort, where they no longer have control over their physical actions. But, in fact, very few people are really "in touch" with their bodies and feelings. Some people tend to be too intellectual, rationalizing everything without taking heed of their emotional or physical needs while others are ruled entirely by their emotions or physical "craving."   

The problem is that you cannot unite your body, mind and emotions just by "thinking about it." By the very nature of the process, things you "think about" only affect your cognitive dimension. If you think you can control your body or your emotions with just your mind by "thinking about it", then you are either doing something more than just "thinking about it" or you are just kidding yourself. So how can we truly make the mind-body connection?  

Breathing can serve as a mediator between the mind and the body. Of all our bodily functions, only breathing can be controlled by both the mind and the body. Breathing in humans is controlled by the neo-cortex, which is the highest order of the central nervous system and the "site" of our conscious mind. Breathing is also regulated by the medulla oblongata, which is the center of spontaneous breathing. Because of our advanced evolution, humans have developed the ability to supersede the function of the medulla oblongata with the conscious control of our neo-cortex; only human beings, therefore, of all animals, have the ability to consciously control their breathing.  

When we consciously control our breathing, the neo-cortex must extend nerve connections down to the medulla oblongata. On the way, the connections must pass through the "old cortex," which is the site of old memory and learning; the mid-brain, which is the site of emotions and autonomic nervous system functions, and then the brain stem, which is the site of muscle and vital function control. Thus, when we control breathing, our conscious mind becomes connected to both the emotional and physical control centers of the brain. In this way, "Controlled Breathing" can help you "get connected" between your mind and body, and also "get in touch" with your emotions, and only "Controlled Breathing" can have this effect.

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