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NEW SURVEY:
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Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) Function and the Breath

The ANS has the job to perceive the internal environment and - after processing the information in the Central Nervous System - regulating the functions of the internal environment.  We go into managing that in our Teacher Training

Autonomic implies “independent” of the conscious mind.  The ANS is likened to a team of horses.  It will follow the leader. The breath is the only part of the ANS that is consciously controllable so we put the breath as lead horse and the rest of the team will follow.

WHO IS IN YOUR DRIVER’S SEAT?
Due to breathing’s potential dominance of the autonomic nervous system  anything you do 5,000 to 30,000 times a day or two to five hundred million times per life time will influence you positively or negatively in many ways.  

Your breathing can be out of control like a blind three year old child trying to drive an automobile down a straight road.  Or it can be a balanced combination of skillful and spontaneous action that propels, and guides you  towards the directions in life that you most care to go.  Life seems to be varying degrees of the two extremes.  Which end of the spectrum most resembles YOUR life?  Perhaps life is very good and there are just some things you want to make better?

Used appropriately, the breath and breathing can help the ANS maintain levels of function that, barring accident or disaster, never need doctors or hospitals.  Prescription drugs may well be reduced to levels of rational and TEMPORARY emergency support instead of disease and death dealing  dependencies. Then we can treat the CAUSES instead of just the symptoms. You can use your breathing to detect hidden signs of potential illness, key blocks in your internal power and your ability to get what you want in life, and whether or not you are feeling your feelings and in touch with your emotions and experiencing the fullness of your life.   

The “magic” of breathing is not merely in proper input of oxygen and balance of carbon dioxide, though this is of major importance. Poorly chosen breathing exercises will set up blocked or excessively wide swings of energy experiences that disturb and distort rather than facilitate easier, coordinated, integrated, and strengthened states of breathing and being. 

The sympathetic component controls the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to virtually every organ, including the brain and every structure of the musculo-skelatal system.  But without the Parasympathetic Nervous System for balance it can overwhelm the system with an over abundance of energy causing dizziness, spaceyness, confusion, fear, anxiety or other forms of hyper arousal and distress. 

Several publications have demonstrated that dysfunction of the ANS is common and can be responsible for many varied illnesses such as high blood pressure, kidney failure, angina, hormone and bowel dysfunction, chronic pain and many more.

ANS dysfunction can be caused by toxicity of the brain stem and/or the autonomic ganglia, infections and nutrient deficiencies, by scar tissue and mechanical compression and postures influencing ANS fibers and ganglia. ANS imbalance  can also be caused by unresolved emotional problems since the regulating center of the ANS, the hypothalamus, is in constant communication with the limbic system via the limbic-hypothalamus axis.

To repeat. The ANS is like a team of horses.  Make the breath the lead horse and you establish a consistent and reliable influence of primary functions of the so called "automatic" ANS.

The “magic” of breathing is not merely in proper input of oxygen and balance of carbon dioxide.  Poorly chosen breathing exercises will set up blocked or too-wide swings of energy experiences that disturb and distort rather than facilitate easier, coordinated, integrated, and strengthened states of breathing and being. 

Primary Functions of the ANS

1. Regulation of body temperature by a variety of mechanisms:

Vasoconstriction or dilation, activation of sweat glands (evaporation of fluid/sweat cools the skin). regulating the arterial blood supply and nutrient delivery to the thyroid gland (if an organ cell i.e. a thyroid hormone producing cell, is exposed to a higher concentration/supply of nutrients or substrate, the cell will produce more of the substance that it is specialized to produce. Higher circulating levels of thyroid hormone elevate the body temperature.

2. Detoxification:
The breath is potentially the easiest most direct means for outgassing waste including elimination of oxidized complex carbohydrate foodstuffs.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are extremely important to optimal ANS function. When you breathe right, those fruits and veggies - complex carbohydrates- are mostly expelled through the breath via carbon dioxide.  Poor breathing means that the rest of the body must somehow deal with the remaining debris.

Looking at the activity of the liver cells, kidney cells and secreting cells in the gut wall; motility of the gall bladder (and gallbladder ducts), of the gut, the bladder; activity/contractility/vascular tone of the lymphatics; again voltage control of the cell walls of every body cell: opening or closing channels needed for detoxification; activation of sweat glands, and dilating skin vessels for outgassing of toxins.  When the breath is restricted ALL these functions are restricted reducing cellular activity and increasing toxic buildup.

3. Pumping:
Think of the deeper EASY breathing as both an energy and vital fluid pump.  It is actually a much larger pump than the heart is. This pumping action supports activation of fibroblasts in the connective tissue (Pischinger and Heine) for tissue repair; dilation of blood vessels in areas of need for building materials and oxygen; dilation and pulsation of lymphatics for transport of waste products away from the site of injury; activation of immune competent cells in the substances/neurotransmitters (C.Pert, H. Siegen) and more. 

Nervous system action for flight, fight , freeze, fake it, fumble or fun. Adrenaline production for emergency action, cardiac output, increase of muscle tone by sensitizing muscle spindles in the relevant skeletal muscles, dilating (parasympathetic balanced sympathetic breathing) the blood vessels and bronchial tree of the lungs for higher absorption of oxygen, immobilizing (or activating) the gut and all healing functions of the digestion or immune system, contracting the blood vessels in the skin anticipating probable impending blood loss; increasing blood supply to the skeletal muscles, sensitizing relevant portions of the five senses, such as hearing and eyesight, but decreasing sensitivity for fine touch and pain is largely controllable through the breathing pattern.  If arousal of the ANS continues and becomes chronic, the effect on the pain receptors changes paradoxically: now the ANS has a “wind-up” effect and builds up negative energy, tension or stress.  This may be one reason why peripheral neuropathy patients feel pain relief with optimal breathing exercises.  

Neurotransmitter staining techniques have added to Japanese insights of ANS function; that the ANS does NOT have clear border distinctions between sympathetic and parasympathetic  (newspaper article).  This makes perfect sense to me as I think  of the ANS as a teeter totter with sympathetic on one end and parasympathetic on the other end  with a fulcrum that raises (higher intensity’) and lowers (lower intensity). Each end of the teeter totter is PNS and  SNS respectively and the raising or lowering fulcrum is the “pump” or intensity of  the balanced or unbalanced ANS stimulus response. May be largley ehr the term "unbalanced" stems from.

The Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is almost always overlooked.  When you see a picture of it and how immense and many hundreds of branches are in the chest and abdomen you have to wonder why. Even though the anterior portion of the hypothalamus is considered the chief-commander of the motor portion of the parasympathetic, the motor nucleus of the vagus (parasympathetic) and nucleus ambiguous in the brain stem are directly responsible for all down going signals in the portion of the ANS.  You might choose to call this factor “parasympathetic inhibition”.   I prefer “calming” and balancing (not necessarily reducing for to allow and maintain high states of positive excitement) the more intense energy of the SNS.  In this day and age I believe we need more opportunity for relaxing then we do being stimulated.

The signals travel in the parasympathetic fibers of:

              1. The vagus nerve to the viscera piggyback on several cranial nerves to glands, skeletal muscles and other structures of the face neck, region and

              2. Inside the spinal cord to the sacrum , where the fibers emerge to participate in the enervation of the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs of the pelvis. (Any good anatomy book should show this but some forget the cranial or sacral PNS)

80-90% of all vagus fibers are sensory. Conscious breathing brings us in direct touch with our sensory experience.

The ENS (enteric nervous system) a branch of the PNS influences the breath dependent variability of the heart rate.

Vocal chords and muscles needed for swallowing are all enervated by the parasympathetic fibers coming from the nucleus ambiguous.  I consider the vagus as two  nerves. Spasmodic dysphonia abductor and adductor may be good examples of this.

The limbic system has strong regulating influence on the ANS. Unresolved emotion can have a “windup” effect on portions of the ANS, which can express itself in a huge number of ways of undetected psychosomatic illness (caused by autonomic dysfunction). The emotional memory of an accident is amore common cause of chronic post-traumatic neck pain than the physical trauma itself.  Breathing optimally moderates this influence in billions of ways that we have conscious control over.  Genetics takes a far back seat to the power of the way we breathe.

The sympathetic component controls the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to virtually every organ, including the brain and every structure of the musculo-skelatal system.  But without the PNS to balance it can overwhelm the system with an over abundance of energy causing dizziness, spaceyness, confusion, fear, anxiety or other forms of hyper arousal.  For instance, cathartic transformational breathwork can be an energizing  cure or  over stimulating curse depending on the way it is utilized in the personal growth process.

The SNS  controls body temperature, muscle tone, activity of osteoblasts, sexual arousal, activity of the thymus gland and circulation of immune cells.  The PNS controls glandular activity throughout the body, secretions in the lining of the intestines, many regenerative functions (such as activity of fibroblasts and various immune cells, hormone production), the vocal chords, several muscles of mastication and swallowing, and appears to stimulate the secretion of those neuro-modulators that are responsible for our emotions.

Several publications have demonstrated that dysfunction of the ANS is common and can be responsible for many varied illnesses such as high blood pressure, kidney failure, angina, hormone dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, chronic pain and many more. ANS dysfunction can be caused by toxicity of the brain stem and/or the autonomic ganglia, infections and nutrient deficiencies, by scar tissue and mechanical compression and postures influencing ANS fibers and ganglia.

ANS imbalance  can also be caused by unresolved emotional problems since the regulating center of the ANS, the hypothalamus, is in constant communication with the limbic system via the limbic-hypothalamus axis.

To repeat. The ANS is like a team of horses.  Make the breath the lead horse and you establish a consistent and reliable influence of  primary functions of the so called ANS.

VAGUS and PHRENIC NERVES

The relaxation response is the most important factor and involves the degree of rise of the diaphragm as it relates to the vagus and phrenic nerves.  I call this parasympathetic stroke because of the “massage” the diaphragm seems to give the vagus nerve (and possibly the Phrenic nerve) as it rises upward and downward sort of like one might polish the barrel of a rifle or pool cue shaft.  (See how close it is to the superior vena cava as shown in the Secrets of Optimal Breathing Manual). 

The upward stroke seems the more relevant direction as it pertains to  heightened relaxation  (parasympathetic) response – the drawing of the bow or pulling out of the plunger of the pump. I suspect this somehow relates to vagatonia (deep relaxation  brought about by stimulation of the vagus nerve.)  Training in Inversion Traction showed me this relationship

YOUR MOUTH AND THE ANS
Dwight Jennings, DDS can show you that a major ANS influence is how you chew; your upper respiratory functioning. Your teeth and jaw relationships can support or skew ANS function.  Noel Markley DDS, San Francisco can  show you how important it is to make sure the handiwork of each dental specialty is integrated with work from the other specialties.  When one dentist does the entire mouth may be the only rational choice for those wanting the best bite and ANS functioning.  Specialization is often a sneaky form of “productionlineitis”.  Give me a dentist that knows the whole mouth, not just the gums, or the bite or the whatever.

Another, more "new age" way of saying all the above would be:
Balance the autonomic nervous system through the breath and breathing. Breathe in and give life to your vision as you recreate yourself in each moment of time by increasing the speed and joy of life that is directly proportionate to the openness and freedom of the way you breathe. Optimal Breathing lowers the survival reptilian brain's inappropriate influence and raises stimulation of rational neocortex while the energetic calming of Optimal Breathing causes you to "see" better physically as well as psychically, intuitively with better access of other subtle energy systems of chakras, auras and meridians. Optimal Breathing raises your natural energy thermostat to handle more positive vibrations and heal your mind/body/spirit.

"Fight or Flight: In weighing cardiac risk factors, doctors are overlooking autonomic tone" This article goes quite deep into the science of the ANS in a very enlightened way and concern for attention to the sympathetic and parasympathetic aspects but as you can see it completely overlooks the influence the breathing has on all that. The heart is getting a disproportionate amount of the attention. more about

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Smart phone Droid
short-form Breathing Tests
"breathing test" are the key words.
The icon
Long  form test

The Optimal Breathing Times 

Free Email Newsletter

Subscribe now

The Optimal Breathing Store 
Products and self-help program sets

Browse our catalog

"Breathing is the FIRST place not the LAST place one should investigate when any disordered energy presents itself."

Sheldon Saul Hendler, MD Ph.D., The Oxygen Breakthrough


"He who breathes most air lives most life."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
 


Several Marathons has inspired quite a few runners to use our breathing kit, looking to increase their breathing strength & endurance. This is on top of their fitness training programs. Having a major tune-up to re-establish energy-efficient breathing patterns has been of enormous benefit to both elite and recreational runners - young middle and old.


 



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