During my early work as a physical therapist I discovered that physical healing was significantly impacted by an individual’s emotional and mental well being and that knee injuries that looked the same on x-ray did not simply recover the same way in rehabilitation. I became interested in why some people took much longer to recover than others and was also encouraged by the ways in which listening, touching, and simple kindness seemed to be as important as traditional treatment modalities. When I began work in the neonatal intensive care nursery I had to rely very heavily on my ability to observe and listen to a baby’s behavioral stress signals as their only method of communicating their needs. Recognizing those needs prior to deterioration in physiological stability is critical to infants whose fragile brains and bodies are vulnerable to constant fluctuations in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Although adults’ nervous systems are not as physiologically fragile as pre-term infants they also undergo a stress response.
One of the best ways to impact the stress response is to change our awareness of and depth of our breathing.
In order to pay attention to how we breathe we must be present in the action of each breath. When the body is deprived of oxygen it has only minutes of survival left. For many of us who live in the west our lifestyle reflects a state of being that makes deep breathing counter-intuitive: we don’t stop, have limited time to accomplish numerous tasks, attempt to swallow and suppress our emotions, and hold our stomachs in. All of these are impediments to relaxed and efficient breathing and can also contribute to the inadequate reflection of thought and the processing of emotions. There is increasing evidence to support the benefit of slowing and deepening breath in particular, the effect that down regulating our breath and other physiologically aroused systems at times of times of stress.
Research conducted by Herbert Benson (Associate Professor of Medicine Harvard Medical School) Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin and John Kabat-Zin, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine has demonstrated how we think about something effects how our body’s physiological sub-systems react perhaps making our immune systems vulnerable to illness and our bodies less effective at combating disease.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HOW AND WHY I WORK THE WAY I DO PLEASE CHECK OUT THE MIND-BODY-SOUL page: www.mindingmatters.com/mind-body
For more information on these researchers follow the links provided below.
Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine www.massgeneral.org/bhi
Jon Kabat-Zinn Mindfulness video link: