Day 2 - Breathing to boost our immune system
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
It is really important that each of us take care of our immune systems right now, and support the body’s self-healing ability. Stress has a major impact on the immune system and can set in motion a whole cascade of inflammation in the system. This technique has been shown to dampen the stress response by reducing cortisol levels and boosting the immune system.
How to Practice:
Take a few moments to settle into a comfortable position sitting in your chair or lying on your back. Notice any tension and gently release it with a few stretches and some soft exhales.
Spend a few moments simply feeling the breath in your body, noticing the quality of the breath. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Keeping your neck and shoulders soft and begin to lengthen your inhale by slowing it down as you inhale through the nose and exhale slowly through the nose, feeling like you are emptying the lungs completely.
Imagine that you are breathing in slowly from your belly and to the chest and exhale slowly chest first then belly.
Keep breathing in slowly through the nose and breathing out slowly through the nose.
As you inhale you are energising and as you exhale you are letting go, calming down and relaxing.
Feel like you are breathing with your whole body.
Keeping the inhale and exhale at equal length.
Try to inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 5 through the nose with no pauses in between the breaths.
Begin by exhaling completely…inhaling 2, 3 4 ,5 …exhaling 2 ,3 4 5. Continue for 5 minutes, and then relax into the feeling.
Schedule this into your routine. Do this 3 times a day for 5 minutes at a time.
Why this works to build the immune system:
Breathing is one of many components of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which also includes your heart rate, digestive system, and more. Your Vagus nerve runs from your brain all the way down through to the opening of your diaphragm, and its purpose is to send signals to adjust the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system that form the ANS. This has effects on heart rate, digestion, and general feelings of being calm.
This is why the easiest way to activate your Vagus nerve to put the neural brake on a racing heart is to slow down your breath. It's almost like a hack for your nervous system - you can do something within your conscious control that has an effect on processes that you otherwise can't directly control. In effect, if you can get your breathing to leave a stressed state, the rest of the parts of your autonomic nervous system will follow suit, creating a chain reaction that can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and related problems.
One study showed that levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) increased after a trial of controlled breathing; GABA is important because of its anti-anxiety effects. Another study showed that lower levels of cytokines were found after coherent breathing - these are linked to inflammation and stress.