Take a deep breath

Geplaatst op 11-06-2020

(Original publication June 2019.)

After yet another very productive period of activities and achievements on roller skates, we are heading to a well needed pause from our daily tasks. Jugglin' between skatelife, private life, study life, working life and familylife, has shown to be quite a challenge of balance, but we improve as we move through it all, resulting in working on fresh ideas and strategies.

Common factor to keep everything going to the best of our abilities: keep on breathing.

Now, you may ask `Wait; What? That's it? That comes pretty natural to us all, doesn't it?`.

Yes. Absolutely true.

In fact, according to rough calculations, an everage adult is estimated to take somewhere between 20000 and 25000 breaths a day. Now, most of us lose count after 10, as we are easily distracted by all things we have to do in our busy lives. But focusing on a few breaths on a daily basis, can make a world of difference in terms of overall good health and a clear mind for clear decision making.

As we are all easily stressed out on different levels throughout the day, controlling your breath is probably the least thing on your mind, but at the same time the easiest of all ingredients you need, to get you through any task.

There are of course many people taking yoga classes, having their daily morning meditation rituals, or perhaps practicing mindful running. Taking a few moments throughout every day to bring the region of breathing lower than the chest, works wonders and adds up to all other stress-controlling habits.

How the physiology of the body actually changes for the better, by taking a deep breath and even longer exhalations, is an interesting matter to dive into.

Daily Life .

We’ve all had experiences like this on multiple occasions: seeing someone or finding ourselves totally stressed out and then some person or perhaps you yourself saying to someone : “ Ok, wait a minute. Try to relax, take a deep breath and think again where you could have lost your phone.” Or something along those lines. The key part, `take a deep breath`.
In the old days and then I really mean the old days, man and wo-man were living in let’s say, challenging circumstances. Always on the lookout, not to end up as a side dish for bears, tigers, lions and all kinds of other cute looking creatures with a big appetite.
The emergency reaction, also known as the fight-flight-freeze response, was an absolute survival tool (encapsulated in the oldest part of the brain), to deal with any type of danger.
The emergency state is initially meant to come and go, changing the physiological status only briefly, until everything is safe again. Breathing from the chest makes it easier to breathe fast, to acquire more oxygen for the heart and the muscles. Stress hormone levels (mainly adrenaline, cortisol) are increased, to set the body up in perfect danger mode. Clear and rational thinking is the least thing on your mind; there’s simply no time and the altered physiological state hardly has any room for that.

In modern times, the lions and bears causing you to stress out, are your colleagues or customers sending tons of e-mails, your superior or crazy neighbor yelling at you, your smartphone and the constant urge to check it and let’s not forget traffic jams. They may not be life threatening in most cases, but the emergency reaction kicks in nevertheless.

When people roller skate, the physiological effects are instantly noticeable, especially with beginners. Fast breathing form the chest, heart rate going up, sweating; basically that good old emergency reaction. The unrooted feeling and situation of being on wheels, is signaled to the brain as a life threatening issue.

According to today’s science.

Although necessary and very effective in dangerous situations, a prolonged emergency state, is extremely harmful and exhausting to the body and the brain. Continuous elevated levels of stress hormones, are toxic to the immune system, making the body vulnerable to a host of bad news.

Research has brought to light the mechanics of a reset system which counters the emergency response. Deep breathing allows an easier transfer from the chest region to the belly (diaphragmatic breathing), which is a more natural way to breathe. Also, taking a deep breath allows to exhale longer, which triggers the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve (comes in pair) – also called cranial nerve X – wanders down from the neck into the abdominal area, stopping by different organs along the way, to collect statusinfo and act upon it up and downstream.

One of the many functions and effects of cranial nerve X, is to control the heart rate. Longer exhaling triggers the vagus nerve to squirt some stress-killing vagusstoff (later identified as acetylcholine - ACh) into the system, causing the rest heart rate to slow down. This, is your built-in reset button to counter the effects of the too often popping up fight-flight-freeze response.

Zen zone.

Daily deep breathing exercises are easy and helpful tools, to combat long term stress effects. Practicing contemplative activities on a regular basis, such as meditation rituals, yoga, tai chi, roller skating, all have imbedded some form of breathing practice, focused on slowing down the breathing pattern and longer exhaling.

But with an average of 23000 breaths a day, you surely can focus on a few of them multiple times a day, taking them deeper, longer and slower. One effective way to engage into instant deep breathing from personal experience, is to visualize the location of the vagus nerve and how it injects some of that ACh stress antidote, bringing you to a low stress & natural high plateau; and stay there as long as you want.

So, treat your breathing with reverence, for it gives you life!

Brian B. Kanhai - Soulful Fitness - Roller Skate Training.


Vagus Nerve.


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