Breathing as a Habit

Breathing as a Habit

Babies need the basic biological functions of eating and digesting as the rest of their nervous system is still developing. The enteric nervous system is an independent nervous circuitry bridged to the central nervous system through the vagus nerve. 

When the embryo is developing, a clump of nerve tissue turns into two branch’s, the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system. Later in development, the vagus nerve makes the connection between the two branches. 

The connection between these two parts of the nervous system is worth discussing because of its relationship to meditation. The rate of breathing, which we can consciously control, will slow down or speed up the heart beat, the reaction of the adrenal glands, and many other parts of the body. 

A regular meditation practice that slows down the heart rate trains the nervous system to relax and experience less stress. When we breathe deeply and slowly during (perceived) stressful times in modern life, our body can slow down and will likely handle inputs more appropriately. 

In times of real stress, such as fight or flight, our involuntary nervous system will take over, dump adrenaline into our system, and hopefully help us to safety. But so often, the stress of email inboxes, traffic, or financial concerns aren’t really life-threatening, so we don’t need an extreme response. We can breathe through these issues, maintain proper perspective, and handle them more effectively. 

Many Taoist breathing techniques are covered in The Alchemist’s Tao Te Ching: Transforming Your Lead Into Gold

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