Breathing and Brain Waves

Breathing has long been used by yogis and kung fu artists to enhance cognitive function and modulate emotions such as fear.

A recent study in The Journal of Neuroscience discusses the ability of breathing to entrain mood and focus.

Nasal Respiration Entrains Human Limbic Oscillations and Modulates Cognitive Function” by Zelano et al.

Zelano notes:

“If you are in a panic state, your breathing rhythm becomes faster.  As a result you’ll 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.”

“When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network.”

The limbic system handles emotional processing in the brain. “Going limbic” means to be overwhelmed by emotion and to lose rational processing.

Here’s a couple takeaways:

  • Breathe through the nose.
  • Keep a smooth rhythm of breath to calm the brain.

Breath is like the timing belt of your body.  If you feel like you’re “off,” or out of whack, bring the attention to the rhythm of breath. Smooth inhale, smooth exhale.