Breathwork: inhale the best, exhale the rest!

Inhale the best, exhale the rest! 

Changes in breathing accompany our emotions. During stress, the amygdala controls breathing – we "stop breathing" in a fearful situation or, conversely, start breathing too rapidly, leading to hyperventilation. Both accelerated and delayed breathing are harmful to well-being and health. When we mentally focus on something during work, we may involuntarily "freeze," tensing our muscles and holding our breath as if preparing to jump and fearing to startle our target. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as screen apnea (email or screen apnea).


Hyperventilation is initially an adaptive evolutionary stress mechanism. When CO2 decreases, the intracellular calcium level rises. This process activates the contractile properties of all muscle tissues, increases muscle tension, and heightens the sensitivity of receptors to the action of adrenaline. Hyperventilation leads to increased contractile activity of skeletal and smooth muscles, narrowing blood vessels in the brain. It can result in dizziness, narrowed consciousness, reduced attention, tingling, numbness, and spasms, sometimes as a feeling of pressure in the chest, a lump in the throat, and so on.
Research shows numerous beneficial effects of breathing exercises. Slow breathing effectively relaxes, reducing muscle tone and sensitivity to adrenaline. Calm, measured deep breathing reduces the activity of the sympathetic stress system and increases parasympathetic activity, stimulates the vagus nerve, and slows the heart rate.
Breathing exercises are more effective with biofeedback, where we see immediate results of our actions. The most commonly used are heart rate variability, less frequent alpha rhythm, or measuring the level of carbon dioxide in exhaled air (Capnometry-Assisted Respiratory Training CART). Visualization of the breathing process also helps to maintain attention on it.
You can assess yourself using the Nijmegen questionnaire to identify hyperventilation syndrome. Focusing on breathing in meditation is not chosen by chance – it allows you to concentrate faster and maintain attention longer. Pay attention to how you breathe in different situations. Try breathing exercises – these are minutes that can seriously change your perception.
What to do?
1. Notice. 
At the very least, practice noticing when you involuntarily hold your breath or speed it up (modern wearable devices can help); these extremes can intensify stress and provoke problems.
Observe. Interestingly, even just focusing on breathing and controlling it (voluntary breathing) increases activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, premotor cortex, insula, and hippocampus.
2. Breathe. 
Studies have shown that the optimal frequency is 5-6 (4-7) respiratory cycles per minute. If necessary, use breathing apps – there are many now (for example, Breath Ball), and keep the app icon on the smartphone's main screen to remind you to "breathe." Simple breathing exercises can be done during breaks: double inhaling, square breathing, counting, breathing meditation, reading aloud, and singing songs.
3. Synchronize. 
Walk (so-called breathwalking, synchronizing the number of steps on inhale-exhale-hold (very effective!)) To increase productivity, let's take an example from musicians and athletes (for example, the book "Breathe Strong Perform Better"). They pay more attention to combining breathing with playing and movements, avoiding both breath delays and hyperventilation.
4. Use imagination. 
Remember how yogis say, "The mind is the master of the senses, and breath is the master of the mind." Focus on breathing and slowly exhale everything that bothers you: tension, anxiety, haste. Use a visual metaphor: imagine what concerns you as smoke in your lungs, and with each exhale, release it and inhale clean, soothing air. 
Inhale the best, exhale the rest!
Integrating Breathing Techniques Into Psychotherapy to Improve HRV: Which Approach Is Best?
Front. Psychol., 15 February 2021
Breathing at a rate of 5.5 breaths per minute with equal inhalation-to-exhalation ratio increases heart rate variability International Journal of Psychophysiology Volume 91, Issue 3, March 2014, Pages 206-211
New breathing therapy reduces panic and anxiety by reversing hyperventilation." ScienceDaily
Breathing above the brain stem: volitional control and attentional modulation in humans 03 JAN 2018
How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing Front Hum Neurosci. 2018; 12: 353.