Humans respond to stress by inhaling and holding air until stress is present or felt. It results in a so called Fight or flight response which raises sympathetic activity of autonomous nervous system. It increases heart rate and cardiac ejection force and so it raises blood pressure. Additionally secretion of stress hormones starts (cortisol, glucagon, catecholamines, antidiuretic hormone), thus digestion slows down and the activity of cognitive functions is increased.
Parasympathetic tone, which is achieved by PLB works vice versa, the body relaxes, peripheral vascular blood flow occurs due to the release of nitric oxide and the heart slows down.
It results in a relaxed, calm and healthy behavior.
Try an experiment. Imagine any visual image that makes you anxious and simultaneously exhale like you would want to blow a candle. Exhale as much as possible while simultaneously visualizing that visual in your mind. Your brain now conditions this visual stimulus with the parasympathetic tone that is being induced by neurons in the brainstem. The next time you are confronted with this visual stimulus, your brain will trigger the parasympathetic tone as it was conditioned by the above experiment consequently slowing heart, relaxing muscles and promoting digestion. If you reverse this experiment, imagine the same visual and try inhaling simultaneously you would condition a sympathetic arousal similar to a Fight and Flight response and if repeated it would escalate towards a panic attack.
We use breathing games to recondition a stress response from inhaling to an exhaling breathing pattern which increases parasympathetic activity of nervous system. PLB can be used as a 10-20 minutes daily systematic respiratory exercise to train breathing in complex with other rehabilitative activities (Zhang et al, 2008; Lehrer et al, 2006; Tsunezuka et al, 2005; Fregonezi et al, 2005; Lehrer et al, 2004; Opdekamp &Sergysels, 2003; Ritz & Roth 2003; Gigliotti et al, 2003; Sudo et al, 2002; Sudo et al, 2001; Lehrer et al, 2000; Ugalde et al, 2000; Onodera & Yazaki, 1998; Fagevik et al, 1997; Meyer et al, 1997; Delk et al, 1994; Egli, 1960)
Did you know? Frequent or constant activity of the sympathetic tone imposes a lasting impact in the form of high blood pressure and disturbed digestion that may lead to stomach ulcers.
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"Keep using the pursed-lip breathing until the breathless feeling goes away. Rest In between breaths if you feel Dizzy. Give sips of room temperature water."
American Lung Association
“Pursed-lip breathing attempts to prolong active expiration through half-opened lips, thus helping to prevent airway collapse. Compared with spontaneous breathing, pursed-lip breathing reduces respiratory rate, dyspnea, and PaCO2, while improving tidal volume and oxygen saturation in resting conditions."
American Thoracic Society
"Pursed lip breathing is one of the simplest ways to control shortness of breath. It provides a quick and easy way to slow your pace of breathing, making each breath more effective."
“Inhaling through the nose and exhaling through pursed lips makes breathing easier. Pursed-lip breathing can also help you regain control if you’re having trouble catching your breath. You can practice breathing this way anytime, anywhere. If you’re watching TV, practice during the commercials. Try to practice several times a day. Over time, pursed-lip breathing will feel natural.”
University of Minnesota Medical Center
“Pursed lip breathing helps you use less energy to breathe. It can help you relax. When you are short of breath, it helps you slow the pace of your breathing and can help you feel less short of breath."
University of Iowa Children's Hospital