Here at Kyushi we believe that ultimately skin health comes from within, and anything we can do to enhance and care for the skins surface is great. Kyushi was created to provide you with a moment to pause and breathe.
So why is breathing such an important part of Kyushi?
When developing the face oils, I was personally very aware of my own own breathing. Working in the film industry in the thick of it on set generally under pressure, I find that I often only shallow breathe, this is when you only move your upper chest to breathe. You limit your diaphragms full range of motion, which helps to remove toxins from the body by promoting better blood flow and more oxygen around your body. The lungs don’t get a full share of oxygenated air that can make you feel out of breath and anxious. By shallow breathing you are essentially starving the body from the extra oxygen its waiting for and designed to breathe in. We also have a tendency to hold in our stomachs so they appear flat and we feel thinner, but actually when breathing the tummy should move in and out. Shallow breathing increases the feeling of stress, tension and anxiety which none of us want!
Now for a little bit of respiratory system anatomy and physiology to understand the process of breathing and why it is important that we breathe from the correct places. The Lungs are the main organ associated with breathing. We each have 2 of them, the smaller left lung that has 2 chambers and the larger right lung. The reason for this size difference is due to the fact that the heart sits to the left side of centre in the chest. Inside the lungs there is lots of air sacs called alveoli. These alveoli increase the surface area that oxygen can be transferred into the blood and carbon dioxide can be removed from the blood. Each alveoli sac is full of capillaries which are small blood vessels that allow this transfer of gases to take place. In fact there is so much surface area created by the alveoli that if we were to lay the average pair of lungs out flat the total surface area is equivalent to the size of a tennis court. Pretty Amazing Huh?! All that surface area inside your chest? The lower chamber of the lungs are the larger chambers and this is where the most surface area for exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide can be found. Therefore too breathe efficiently we need to fill those chambers for the most efficient oxygenation of our blood to take place. We will com back to this in a moment.
The lungs do not really contract and relax by themselves. They attach to the rib cage and muscles around them through a protective membrane called the pleura. think of them similar to an accordion. The musicians hands generate the force on the outside of the instrument to pull to the ends apart which fills the bag with air. The musician then pushes their hands together and the bag empties of air. During quiet restful breathing the muscle that is responsible for breathing is the Diaphragm. The Diaphragm will contract which pulls the lungs down and also presses against the digestive organs which rises the tummy (added benefit here of massaging your digestive organs and aiding with the assimilation of food). As the lung get drawn down the area inside the lungs increases creating a negative pressure inside the chest. With this negative pressure air is drawn in through the nose or (if open) the mouth. When we breathe out the diaphragm relaxes and the elastic recoil of the lungs and the diaphragm squeeze the air out. This method is highly effective and efficient for turning over large volumes of air and is more than enough for regular breathing and even low levels of activity or exercise.
What happens if the body needs more oxygen? If more oxygen is needed a the diaphragm alone cant meet this demand then we have what we call the second primary muscles or breathing. These muscles are the Intercostals which sit between your ribs and help the rib cage to expand slightly. These will be called on during low to moderate exercise. When we our system still doesn’t feel like it is getting enough oxygen during intense exercise or respiratory demands you will see the accessory muscles kick in. These are the scalene muscles, the strernocleidomastoid (both in the front/side of the neck), the pectorals (chest muscles), and the abdominals (for forced exhalation like coughing and sneezing). When the accessory muscles kick in we call this apical (or if done alone shallow breathing) and it gives us a little bit of extra lung capacity but it uses a lot of energy to lift the upper ribs without creating too much increase in lung volume. Also these muscles are not designed to be high endurance muscles so they fatigue when asked to do long bouts of breathing as this is not their primary function.
So what controls our breathing and why don’t I constantly have to think when to breathe?
Breathing, just like every subconscious function the body performs is controlled by the Autonomic nervous system (ANS). This has 2 parts to it. The first part is the “Sympathetic” branch which for ease basically stimulates everything in the body and reacts to stressful situations. It is commonly referred to as controlling the fight or flight responses. The other part to this system is called the “Parasympathetic” branch which is commonly referred to as the rest and digest response. Understanding the interplay of these 2 systems and how they control our breathing helps to understand how important our lifestyle and environment can be on the way we breathe. If we are in stressful situations the Sympathetic branch of our ANS is revved up which will cause our respiratory system to utilise these accessory muscles and we use shallow or apical breathing. If we are calm, relaxed, content, and at ease we will breathe from our diaphragms. Simple Huh?!!
Well Yes and No. Thinking of it that way makes it seem very simple but just to complicate things for us the ANS doesn’t just receive its information from outside. It receives so much information from inside our bodies too. What this means for us, is if our bodies are internally showing signs of a stressful situation our ANS thinks we are still under stress even if the external environment is now calm and relaxed. Think of being at home on a Sunday afternoon but you still cant relax or feel at ease. Has this ever happened to you? It sure has happened to me, and its normally at times when I am under stress during the week with work. I get to the weekend and although I’m away from the stressful environment. I still feel unable to fully relax. Inside my body i still have Cortisol and Adrenaline being released by my overworked Adrenal Glands and I haven’t taken time to reset my breathing so my accessory muscles are still doing my breathing, my diaphragm is held tense and I’m not getting the body the oxygen it needs to function fully.. Whats really neat about knowing this though is exactly this, Knowing!!! Now you know your ANS receives information about your stress levels from inside as well as outside your body you can help to control both aspects. You can create the calm tranquil living space, or the time spent in the park or on the beach to relax with resetting your breathing regularly. The respiratory system is one of the most influential internal regulators of our ANS. Therefore correcting this system can have a highly effective impact on helping to control the signals your body sends to the ANS and therefore what level of stress it perceives. The best way to do this is by breathing from the diaphragm.
This is why here at Kyushi we want you to “Take a Moment, Pause, and Breathe”
The three breaths we recommend you do before applying your face oils in the morning and the evening are not only there to help you inhale and receive the benefits of your essential oils systemically. It also helps you reconnect with your respiratory system and enjoy the benefits of deep breathing.
Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing has been shown to have the following benefits
- Stimulates the relaxation response and helps lower your stress levels by giving feedback from inside the body suggesting a relaxed environment. This has even been shown to be effective in lowering cortisol levels when still in a stressful environment.
- Increases oxygenation of the blood which helps just about every physiological process in the body. This helps with health and function of the entire body and lowers other internal stress indicators throughout the body
- It can even lower your rate and blow pressure
- It lowers your respiratory rate and reduces the stress put on your accessory breathing muscles which decreases neck tension and fatigue.
- It has been shown to reduce symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Reduces pain by overriding your stress responses. Stress will greatly increase your ANS reaction to a painful stimulus. By reducing your stress levels your ANS will have less attention on the signals that it receives from pain receptors as it is no longer in heightened sense of awareness
- Helps improve the tone and strength of your core muscles including your abdominals and your pelvic floor muscles.
The most important benefit is unquestionably being able to override the ANS response/perception of stress. As this has a positive impact on every aspect of your body and overall health. In a world where we are exposed to stress in so many different forms any help we can get from helping to reduce this is priceless.
Heres how to help control your stress levels and improve your overall health by deep diaphragmatic breathing.
Begin by sitting or lying comfortably, you can do this anywhere. There are so many different techniques if this isn’t something you’re used to begin with this very simple method. Breathe in through your nose until you feel your tummy raise and you cant breathe in anymore, place a hand on your tummy if that helps, then exhale all the air out. This takes me 3 counts in and 3 counts out. Ideally these are the breaths you take with your Kyushi face oil, hands cupped over your nose and mouth inhaling all of those powerful essential oils.
When you have mastered the art of diaphragmatic breathing you can move onto something like Dr Weils’ 4-7-8 relaxing breathing exercise.
Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Happy breathing folks,