Breathing brings tranquility

For the first time, researchers at Stanford Medical University have just identified a small group of neurons that communicate simultaneously between the region of the brain responsible for controlling breathing and that which induces the feeling of well-being. This discovery explains how breathing exercises, whether from cardiac coherence, oriental arts (Yoga, Tai-Chi, etc.) or meditation have a neurological action inducing a state of inner tranquility.

Doctors should soon be able to prescribe breathing exercises for people suffering from stress and anxiety. At least that is what one could conclude from this intriguing discovery which provides a cellular and neurological understanding of the action of respiration on the reduction of stress.

A team of researchers from Stanford University has succeeded in identifying a small group of neurons that link breathing to relaxation, excitement or anxiety. This group of neurons is also responsible for cardiac stimulation. Information relating to an external stress passes through this zone to accelerate the heart rate and breathing in case of danger for example. If it is necessary to flee a dangerous situation, the organism quickly needs more oxygen so that the muscles provide a powerful and rapid effort. But conversely, if the environment is calm and especially if the breathing is slow, regular and rhythmic, this group of neurons induces a feeling of calm and tranquility.

Calm breathing, tranquility assured

In mice and humans, this group of neurons is identical. The researchers were able to demonstrate the role of this center by studying various types of breathing: regular, excited, sighing, yawning, panting, sleeping, laughing and sobbing. The scientists were able to observe that by inhibiting the activity of these neurons and placing mice in a new environment, the mice remained calm, did not carry out rapid sniffles, which is the hallmark of their anxiety and were content to simply do their grooming, a sign of relaxation at home. Further analysis showed that although these mice still display the full palette of respiratory varieties from sighs to sniffles, the proportions of these varieties have changed. There were fewer “active” rapid breaths and more slow breaths associated with stillness.

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Scientists conclude that this group of neurons plays a key role in the effects of breathing on emotion and hope that understanding this area of ​​the brain will lead to therapies for stress, depression and other negative emotions through breathing. Science sometimes happily joins traditions and explains experimentally what thousand-year-old traditions like Tai-chi, meditation or yoga know empirically. All that remains is to practice your favorite breathing exercises to generate and maintain tranquility within you. Good practice.



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