breathwork: coherence and union

If I say mind and thinking, you automatically know that we are talking about head. And reason. With the same automatism, you know that when using the words emotion and feeling all the rest of the body is put into play from the heart. The world of sensations.

Who knows how many times in your school, affective, professional life, these two parts acted separately or, worse, in conflict with each other. It is complex to harmonize reason & feeling, logic and emotion especially if you have been taught that head and reason are more reliable and that the world of feelings is fragile, without logic, and therefore unreliable. Culture, education, models, but no absolute truth.

The good news is that over the last decades new models have been developed that use the discoveries of science as a support and that unite visions, rather than divide them.

neuroscience

Neuroscience studies the functioning of the nervous system and the dense network of connections and exchanges of information between it and the other systems of the organism: respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, immune systems. Physiologically the body is a network made up of specialized cells that continuously exchange information through electromagnetic and chemical messages. The nature and quality of these messages influence physiology, besides guiding it in its vital functions as well as the exchanges with the environment add other inputs. All this affects health, mood, thought activity.

These are just a few lines to summarize the work of a science that is less than 50 years old and continues to make countless revolutionary discoveries. One of these is called organic coherence.

organic coherence

Why should you be interested? Because it puts scientific discoveries at the service of the well-being of people willing to learn something about how their organism works, and the use of some techniques that allow them to be the architects of their own serenity, even when external things are complex.

Just think about last year and a half, the pandemic and what it has determined and is still determining. Don’t you want to have some resources to create a mainstay inside you, when everything outside is unstable and uncertain?

It is possible though isn’t a” magic wand “. You need to learn some things and practice some techniques, therefore some effort on your side is needed. 

talk to me

The first “lesson” is about learning to interact with the nervous system, because even if no one has ever told you, it is possible to exchange messages, learn to understand and collaborate with our body. Many of our health and mood difficulties are due precisely to this lack of dialog. Coherence is a beautiful word that means union and this is its etymological root. 

Now notice, I started talking about mind and heart acting separately, if not even in conflict, and neuroscience found that it is possible to have them talk and collaborate when needed, bringing them to a coherence state – another cultural model, another reality, which is possible because it is the result of scientific research and not opinions.

the “zone”

Some athletes claim to have perceived a particular condition sometimes, generated by sports activity, a state of harmonious functioning of body, thought, feeling and maximum competitive performance: the zone. Many assumptions have been made in the past about what factors could lead this state and nutrition, type and duration of training, and others have been analyzed.

Only a couple of decades ago it was discovered that the zone has to do with the state of organic coherence: conditions and attitudes that send specific messages to the nervous, circulatory, endocrine, and immune systems harmonizing them. A finely tuned orchestra that plays with skill, well directed by its conductor.

how, what is the secret?

More than forty years ago I had a special meeting which had and still has great importance in my private and professional life. It was something I had never given weight to, my mind didn’t consider it, I was unaware that I had such a precious resource available – breathing.

More than four decades have passed since the awareness of the strength of breath and its importance for body, mental activity, emotions, emerged within me. Years during which I did research, learned, experienced, passed on to others its potentials and benefits and still discovered more.

A simple and natural action that accompanies us from our birth to our death, silently marking the alternation of life, setting biological rhythms, flows of feeling and thought. A password to the world of the body, a step ahead to manage thoughts and emotions, a tuning fork for the vital forces.

Rollin McCraty, Ph.D.

Dr. McCraty is a psycho-physiologist; his specialization is the study of the effect of the mind on the body and the body on the mind, and the endless feedback cycle between the two systems, while each models the other. He is a US researcher in these issues. In one of his articles, he writes:

The more we become aware of our breathing, the more deeply and uniformly we breathe, the more benefits we receive: benefits for our physical health and athletic performance, our stress levels, our mental agility, our emotional well-being. Benefits in our ability to sleep deeply, in a restful way, benefits to overcome problems, to connect with others and manage challenging situations, such as taking an exam or speaking in public.”

a perfect life?

Personally, I share Dr Mc Craty’s experience, it is also mine. I also realize that using a technique, however effective, does not make life perfect, but it rather makes us more competent and skilled in improving our approach to what happens inside and around us. There will be always hectic situations at work, tense conversations with a colleague or partner, chaotic traffic, and other inconveniences; right in those moments body and mind will remind that they have the possibility to access a resource, that between stimulation and automatic response there is a space where deep breaths can be included

and then?

You need to do a few things for your organic coherence training, and you have to learn some processes but nothing difficult. 

For the first three to four weeks, work out in a quiet room, turn the silent mode of your mobile on, no one around, and sit comfortably. Then later, it will be easier for you to practice in environments with other people and noise, or while walking. But every now and then find a few minutes for you in peacefulness and solitude.

Practicing is simple: sit or lie down comfortably for twenty minutes, doing nothing, with closed eyes, loosening muscle tensions/relaxing the body and breathing. Deep, complete breaths with a lot of air that involve chest-diaphragm-abdomen, in a slow and relaxed way, savoring the flow of air that makes its way into the organism during inspiration, letting it go without forcing during expiration. If a thought or feeling draws your attention, devote just one moment to it, and then return calmly to the modulation of breathing.

Breath after breath the blood enriched with oxygen molecules will reach the nervous system, which will respond to the chemical message by changing frequency; after eight/ten minutes you will feel more relaxed and calmer. There may be some lapses in concentration especially the first times: it’s natural. Consider them like the panorama that you are looking at from the window of a traveling car, let them pass by and return with attention to your breath. 

what can hinder you

Inexperience, haste, impatience, searching for a result, external noises, expectations, pretending to be able to do everything quickly and immediately, perfectionism, fear of mistakes, labeling what you do and/or what you feel as positive/negative and much more.

There are obstacles but, of course, there are also appropriate measures.

what can facilitate/favor

The curiosity to explore a new experience, the care in preparing a comfortable and quiet environment, the practice/training, the patience, the humility to be at the beginning, doing what you can as you can, welcoming sensations as they are, accepting your breath and staying connected with the alternation movement, loosening up a bit.

Just as there are measures to manage obstacles, there are also appropriate ways to develop attitudes that facilitate; or to enhance them, if some are already part of you.

Read my other articles on this topic, write me if you need personal advice.

© Milena Screm 2021
About the author: 
http://www.insightformazione.it/chi-siamo/docenti-counselor-interni/milena-screm    

Supervisor Counselor & Breathwork & Mindfulness Master
Founder and president INSIGHT School of BreathWork Counseling – Milan (Italy)

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