All physiological functions (included breathing) required to keep your body alive are under the control of your subconscious. You don’t have to be awake to continue breathing. You will continue breathing whether you are awake, asleep, or in a state of anaesthesia on the operating table. It is impossible for you to voluntarily stop breathing. If you are not getting enough oxygen into the body, no matter how much you try, you will not be able to stop the breathing reflex. Free divers can be trained to suppress the breathing reflex for a few minutes, but even the most highly trained free diver will have to come up for air eventually!
Normally, you don’t think about breathing. You just let your body breathe how it wants to and get on with life. Now breathing is quite a unique physiological function, because when you are awake, you have the ability to consciously control it. You can breathe faster, slower, deeper and shallower at will. This means you can affect the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in your lungs, blood stream and body tissues at will. And this is a wonderful thing. Prepare to be amazed at the control you will be able to get over your mood, your feelings, and other physiological functions like heart rate and blood pressure, just by controlling your breathing.
If you are agitated, anxious or frightened, your sympathetic nervous system is very active, preparing you to fight or run away from that sabre toothed tiger. Your breathing is rapid and shallow in this state.
When in a “normal” state, your breathing rate is neither rapid nor slow, nor deep, nor shallow. It is controlled purely by your subconscious and you are not generally consciously aware of it.
When in deep sleep, your breathing is generally slower and deeper than when awake. The sympathetic nervous system is not active and your parasympathetic nervous system is active. The parasympathetic nervous system is the counterbalance to the sympathetic nervous system. It induces a state of calmness and relaxation.
When in a DSR state, you are stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, calming yourself down and making yourself relaxed. When in this state, your body does not need as much oxygen, so you can breathe slower. Breathing slower makes you even more relaxed, reducing your body’s oxygen requirements even further. Isn’t this a bad thing, you may ask yourself? Well, I suppose yes it is a bad thing if you are just about to be pounced on by that tiger because your body won’t be prepared to run away or punch it on the nose. However, if you are safe and lying on your recliner at home, it is a good thing. Your oxygen levels are low, because you don’t need high levels. And the more relaxed you get, the less you need the oxygen because you are using less energy.
But don’t worry, you cannot get yourself into a state of hypoxia (where your oxygen levels are dangerously low), just by slowing your breathing down. Your body will regulate this by forcing you to breathe at a minimum rate, so it will retain an adequate level of oxygen no matter how relaxed you get.
So here’s the crux:
YOU CAN CALM YOURSELF DOWN AND PUT YOURSELF INTO A RELAXED STATE SIMPLY BY SLOWING DOWN YOUR BREATHING!
Great isn’t it!