Did you know that human beings respond to stress by inhaling and holding air?
It results in a so called “Fight or Flight” response which raises sympathetic activity of autonomous nervous system. It increases heart rate and starts secretion of various stress hormones, therefore digestion slows down and the activity of cognitive functions is increased. Exhalation through pursed lips is opposite in its effect, it’s called a “Rest and Digest” response.
Exhalation through pursed lips is longer and more efficient than exhalation only through nose, consequently the body relaxes more, peripheral vascular blood flow occurs due to the release of nitric oxide and the heart slows down. It looks like a sigh of relief. Lack of such an exhalation in everyday behaviour imposes a lasting impact in the form of high blood pressure and disturbed digestion that may even lead to stomach ulcers.
How kids learn healthy breathing behaviour.
By playing breathing exercises we train kids to recondition a stress response from inhaling to an exhaling breathing pattern which increases parasympathetic activity of nervous system. It results in a relaxed, calm and healthy behavior. You can try it yourself: Imagine any visual image that makes you anxious and simultaneously exhale. 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.
Is asthma stressful?
Kids with asthma are more sensitive to stress. Stress can cause asthma attack and asthma attack can cause stress. We call this Positive feedback loop; When kids are in stress, their heart rate is increased, when heart rate is increased it can cause an asthma attack.
Did you know? Breathing is the only way to control your heart consciously. Each inhalation accelerates the heart while each exhalation slows it down. This phenomena is usually observed as “Heart Rate Variability” and is commonly explained as “Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia”. Exhalation through pursed lips prolongs the exhalation and so it reduces heart rate, reduces blood pressure, increases heart rate variability and increases your body’s “Vagal tone”.
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- Pursed lip breathing - WikipediaPursed lip breathing (PLB) is a breathing technique that consists of exhaling through tightly pressed (pursed lips) and inhaling through the nose with the mouth closed.
- Pursed-Lip BreathingUse pursed-lip breathing to prevent shortness of breath when you do things such as exercising, climbing stairs, and bending or lifting.
"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