Even as we juggle our lives around the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, taking care of our mind, body, and family has never assumed so much significance as now. Ever since the pandemic struck, people have not only suffered financially but have also seen their health and relationships deteriorate. Mood-swings, stress and anxiety-related disorders have become commonplace, and anti-depressants are flying off the shelves. In this positive affirmations have hardly ever helped. For example, how often has telling yourself to not get angry or sad, actually helped you to not get angry or sad? Often, our bodies and minds are hostages to hormonal functions in the body. Can simple breathing practices actually help us have a say over our hormones? And what are the feel-good hormones that experts are talking about, in the midst of the raging pandemic?
What Happens When There Is Hormonal Release In The Body?
External situations trigger specific hormonal releases in the body, preparing our body to deal with it and letting us experience feelings and emotions that may be good or bad. An example is ‘dopamine rush’, where our brains release the ‘pleasure chemical’ called dopamine, that makes us feel great, every time we find online validation in terms of shares, positive comments, ‘likes’ and positive social media engagement. Over time, this leads us to want more and more of the same experience, to feel good. But this can get problematic when you do not find the needed validation. Now research finds, non-invasive and healthy tools of yoga and breathing can actually improve the function of feel-good hormones and reduce the overactivity of stress hormones, without causing dependence.
Breathing Techniques For Feel-Good Factor
Mindful breath can help free your mind of the clutter, confusion and fear that breeds anxiety. Specific pranayamas or breathing practices can also help uplift your state of mind and correct the hormonal action in your body. Listed below are some breathing techniques that one must follow to feel good:
- Kapal Bhati Pranayama (Skull-Shining Breathing technique)
- Bhastrika Pranayama (bellow breathing)
- Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing)
- Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath)
Why Do We Need Breathing Tools?
Given the pressing office schedule, household chores, financial stressors, media bombardment of constantly stressful information and a host of responsibilities to attend to, our bodies are in a constant state of ‘Fight or Flight Syndrome.’ This results in our mind secreting hormones like Adrenaline and Cortisol. While a certain secretion of Adrenaline could be good for you if you happen to be an athlete or face imminent danger, it could prove counter-productive if secreted in excess. Apart from these hormones, stress has been found to lead to an excess secretion of Insulin, which if not properly absorbed by our cells could give rise to Type-2 Diabetes. It is a pity that instead of secreting feel-good hormones, our bodies have become stress-producing factories.
Breathing Techniques For Stress: Sudarshan Kriya
It is in this backdrop that we explore how effective breathing techniques can help cope with stress, and result in overall well-being. This could be attained through happy hormones, popularly known by the acronym ‘DOSE’ (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin and Endorphins), produced by our bodies. One breathing practice which is known to aid in the secretion of happy hormones and has become increasingly popular over the years has been the Sudarshan Kriya (SKY).
What Is Sudarshan Kriya?
It is a type of cyclical controlled sequential breathing practice (slow and calm breaths alternated with fast and stimulating ones). Several studies conducted on it, including by the Ivy-league Universities has found students reporting significant improvements in six areas of well-being: depression, mental health, stress, mindfulness, social connectedness and positive affect. It was also found to alleviate severe depression in people who did not fully respond to anti-depressant treatments earlier.
Benefits Of Sky: The benefits of SKY were not limited to combating stress alone, but was equally effective in activating the Vagus nerve. Vagus nerve is one of the most important nerves in the body that arises directly from the brain and reaches all major body organs. It also showed positive results in people suffering from Cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Hypertension, Inflammation etc. Deep sleep, meditative state and secretion of well-being hormones were some other benefits of the practice.
Breathing techniques are fast catching up, and it is no surprise that even the makers of smartwatches and fitness trackers have started including stress receptors and breathing exercises in such gadgets.
With Inputs From Harsh Kanchan From The Art of Living
Read more articles on Mind & Body