While proper breathing is a normal function, for most of us (due to stress and other factors) our breathing often becomes more and more shallow over the course of our lives. Thankfully, we can relearn this for stress management and rejuvenation purposes. But let’s first examine the basis of the breath.
The Hebrew word for breath, ruach, also translates to the words spirit and wind. Additionally, scripture tells us that when God created man, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. So the breath first signifies God’s presence within us (our spirit) and yet is also signifies a heavenly brush (wind). John 3:8 describes the wind as an inexplicable encounter that everyone that is born of the Spirit (the new birth of placing one’s faith in Christ Jesus) experiences. So without the (Holy) Spirit and wind, the result is basically us living separate from Him.
Furthermore, certain versions of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 describe God’s word as God-breathed. And while there is a difference in the meaning behind the words breathed and breath, we know that His Word is from Him. So basically living according to His Holy Spirit and what He has inspired for our benefit are keys to the overall well-being of our spirit and soul and body.
Approaching Greater Well-being
As the whole being consists of the spirit, soul and body, the approach is holistic. We are told in Hebrews 4:12 that that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow.
Essentially, when our spirit (breath of life) and soul, (which consists of the mind, will and emotions) exist in their intended function, we are able to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit (that we receive in the wake of our new birth). Scripture tells us these are: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance.
The Body’s Response to Well-being
The body and emotions respond with what is officially referred to as the relaxation response.
Coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, he defines this response as: “a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress and the opposite of the fight or flight response.”
Studies show that proper relaxation helps to activate this response and allow the body to rejuvenate and facilitate a nervous system that is more calm and re-energized.
The Nervous System
The nervous system is a set of nerves and cells (neurons) that send signals to and from the brain and spinal cord to many parts of the body.
There are two main components—the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The brain and spinal cord are what constitutes the central nervous system. Whereas the peripheral nervous system is located just outside of the central nervous system and its job is to connect it (the central nervous system) to the rest of the body. Essentially, it includes the somatic and the autonomic nervous systems.
The somatic nervous system is associated with voluntary muscle movements. It consists of sensory and motor nerves. Meanwhile the autonomic nervous system is very significant when we talk about breathing. It includes the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Essentially, both these systems have a balancing effect on each other. For instance, the parasympathetic system allows the body to efficiently utilize energy by doing things like slowing down the heart rate and encouraging digestive activity. The sympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, basically works to raise the heart rate, as well as the blood circulation and breathing rates. So in other words, the sympathetic system allows “fight or flight” to occur; but after the moment has passed, the parasympathetic nervous system allows rest and digestion.
We see, therefore, that the physical breath and the nervous system are essentially linked. In fact, abnormal breathing patterns occur in disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. Stress generally plays a major role in abnormal breathing, but proper breathing means a clean and active nervous system.
So, in essence, understanding the natural rhythm of proper breathing supports the maintenance of a well-functioned system. Yet honoring the foundation of the breath, and the wisdom and Grace of our Divine source, produces new life within us and allows us to seek greater balance and well-being from within.
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