The optimal natural breathing reflex is the effortless inhale with the best nervous system balance and least effort that supplies oxygen supply and carbon dioxide balance when needed and helps maintain nervous system balance. It is essentially parasympathetic.
The Reflex During Rest Or Inactivity
Optimally it is a “non-pulled-in” inhale that occurs when the body “decides” it needs more oxygen and/or nervous system balance. It can be triggered/induced or completely passive depending on the needs of body oxygen, depths of rest, or release of tensions needed for recovery of energy and nervous system balance.
This reflex causes movement and therefore becomes the key to sensing and feeling one’s physical breathing in a state of relaxation or minimal activity as well as high stress. The expansion (tension) and release of that tension, along with the heart, are the force or pump behind many body sensations of circulation such as buzzing, streaming, and breeze-like sensations. We breathe less and feel less alive. It is a key part of the body’s relaxation and biofeedback system that dictates as well as informs us whether we are relaxed or not. The larger, deeper, and easier it is to develop, the greater the potential for deeper and easier relaxation, and energy and recovery from activity will be achieved. It is a natural interrelationship of respiratory chemistry and breathing mechanics: a deep peace and a key self-healing potential within the autonomic nervous system.
When functioning properly, the breath reflex occurs spontaneously or can be stimulated or “triggered” for profound full body relaxation and recovery from activity. Blood oxygen restoration with proper CO interrelationships is important, but nervous system balance may be often much more important as this balance allows for strengthened parasympathetic rest, digestion, and healing, and facilitates less need for oxygen and increased dilation of arteries and capillaries for increased blood transport during activity and rest.
A compromised resting breathing reflex can stem from several factors, including any movement more than a few seconds in duration; nonoptimal posture in standing, sitting, or lying; stress, pain, body tensions, or negative emotions manifesting as cellular memories/functional inhibitions within the body; surgery that physically hinders it; poor muscular sequencing and coordination; nerve dysfunction; nutritional deficiencies, and any form of sleep disturbance.
A compromised resting reflex means that kinesthetic breathing awareness is reduced and we become “less in touch” or “out of touch” with our physical energetic feedback mechanisms, including many physical sensations and “feeling our feelings.” Optimal development would be to remove all restrictions to deep, easy, effortless, balanced breathing as well as to remove any aspects of its energetic pathway as it manifests throughout the entire body—to maximize, ease, and flow learning and creativity.
During various levels of activity, the reflex attempts to bring the body back into balance. If we move too quickly, not allowing the reflex to “bloom” fully with each breath, we risk installing permanent shallow or unbalanced dysfunctional breathing (UDB). The key is to develop optimal breathing mechanics and chemistry along with lifestyle choices that allow the reflex enough time, depth, and ease to work as effortlessly as possible. Distressing stress is a lot about stifling the reflex and not giving ourselves time enough to breathe.
Other factors that can influence the reflex’s ability to balance and restore:
- Lung tissue or upper respiratory air duct compromise
- Internal lung pressure that aids or lessens increased saturation of blood, cells, and possibly mitochondria
- Adequate hemoglobin/iron for oxygen transport, without which the organism is dragged down by its own need for primary energy—it works harder and further increases the oxygen cost of breathing
Nervous System Balancing Reflex
A well-developed natural resting breathing reflex is the doorway to our inner world. Candace Pert states that “your body is your subconscious mind.” It is a key governing aspect of ease in developing balance between conscious neocortical rational choice, in the moment responsibility, spontaneous behavior, and rational survival response. The optimal reflex is parasympathetic, which is about neocortical activity/ connection—about choosing life-affirming options. You must always come back to the healing place of the deepest, easiest reflex. A small sample is the huge breath-catching breath or deep sigh of relief that accompanies a strong feeling of tension release. A deeper breath occurs when tension is released, and if less or no reflex occurs, then less or no tension is released. There is a direct relationship between ease, depth, and balance of the reflex and whether we stay in or go out of peace. Developing a natural optimal breathing reflex is the key—the Rosetta Stone—to the breath that creates the connection of consciousness, subconscious, and optimal rational action.
- (2003). Lungs and breathing topics. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lungsandbreathing.html
- Optimal Breathing, http://www.breathing.com
- Pulmonary Education and Research Foundation, http://www.perf2ndwind.org/html/breathing.html