The practice of yoga has gained widespread popularity in recent years for its numerous physical and mental health benefits. Beyond what we typically think of as yoga, the physical practice that has popped up in studios across the globe, one aspect of yoga that has garnered particular interest among researchers is the role of breathing techniques, known as pranayama.
Pranayama refers to the conscious control of the breath through various techniques, including the regulation of breath duration, depth, and pattern. These techniques are believed to have a profound impact on the body and mind, influencing everything from stress levels to cardiovascular function.
Recently, a study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience explored the effects of yogic breathing practices on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dynamics. CSF is a clear, watery fluid that flows around the brain and spinal cord, providing protection and support to these vital organs.
The study involved a group of experienced yoga practitioners who were trained in a specific pranayama technique known as "bhramari," or "humming bee breath." This technique involves exhaling through the nose while making a humming sound, and has been shown to have a calming effect on the nervous system.
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track the movement of CSF in the brain during the practice of bhramari. They found that the technique was associated with increased CSF flow in the brain, particularly in the areas responsible for processing sound and emotion.
These findings suggest that yogic breathing practices may have a direct effect on the dynamics of CSF in the body. This is an important discovery, as CSF plays a crucial role in maintaining brain health and function. Dysregulation of CSF flow has been linked to a range of neurological disorders, including hydrocephalus (a condition characterized by an accumulation of CSF in the brain) and Alzheimer's disease.
But what does this mean for us?
The upward movement of CSF has a direct impact on brain function of the pineal and pituitary glands. Two areas of the brain that control hormone function critical to health and performance. We can directly stimulate these areas of the brain with the movement of CSF, one of the reasons physical exercise feels so invigorating.
Unfortunately most of us spend so much time sedentary and thus we lose proper function of the brain. Luckily there are quick breathing techniques that can help us complete this action multiple times throughout the day in just minutes, supercharging our sense of wellbeing and performance. These techniques can even be taught over quick zoom sessions to large teams and is a way for companies to get a higher ROI out of their employees.
Technology is adapting quickly, but we often overlook the internal technology that resides within. Will we forget this as time goes on? I think we can use it to greatly assist us in times of technological advancement and cultural change.