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Thread: Breathing and autonomic nervous system

  1. #1

    Breathing and autonomic nervous system

    Being new here I searched older threads and didn't see mention specifically of breathing and effects on the autonomic nervous system, so forgive me if this topic has been covered before.
    I have read some on Nishijima-Roshi discussing his view on the autonomic system, which is partly what drew me to learn more about him and thus here.

    As a part of my profession (personal trainer working with people coming from physical therapy) I have taken courses by clinicians with backgrounds in developmental kinesiology and related fields, and their research finds connections specifically between diaphragmatic breathing and attaining better "parasympathetic tone", or a more relaxed state. I've used such strategies over the years with many clients, with good results.

    So I am asking you all, much more experienced and informed than I on shikantaza, if when sitting should we be diaphragmatic breathing, or is it not a big deal?

    Sorry to run long.

    Sat today.
    Chris

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by kurisu View Post
    Being new here I searched older threads and didn't see mention specifically of breathing and effects on the autonomic nervous system, so forgive me if this topic has been covered before.
    I have read some on Nishijima-Roshi discussing his view on the autonomic system, which is partly what drew me to learn more about him and thus here.

    As a part of my profession (personal trainer working with people coming from physical therapy) I have taken courses by clinicians with backgrounds in developmental kinesiology and related fields, and their research finds connections specifically between diaphragmatic breathing and attaining better "parasympathetic tone", or a more relaxed state. I've used such strategies over the years with many clients, with good results.

    So I am asking you all, much more experienced and informed than I on shikantaza, if when sitting should we be diaphragmatic breathing, or is it not a big deal?

    Sorry to run long.

    Sat today.
    Chris
    Hi Chris,

    I am not sure exactly what you mean by "diaphragmatic breathing," but if you mean just naturally and relaxedly breathing from the diaphragm (not high up in the chest), then yes, it is recommended. We sometimes say to "breathe from the hara" (the location a bit below the belly button which is traditionally said to be the body's center of gravity), but it really means the same thing. Without forcing or trying to do something artificial, just breathe expanding the belly and chest to get nice, easy, full breaths.

    Nishijima Roshi, who was a runner in his youth, was very influenced by the ideas of Harvard's Dr. Herbert Benton on the "relaxation response" and balance of the autonomic nervous system, which ideas became popular in the early 1970's. Nishijima Roshi was way ahead of his time in believing in physiological elements to Zazen.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/b...ation-response

    However, generally, in Zazen, one is not seeking to attain any special state or reaching for "relaxation." It comes naturally when one just breathes naturally, while sitting in the radical acceptance and equanimity of Zazen. Although a bit paradoxical at first, the real "relaxation" comes from not trying so hard to be "relaxed." Many people trying to do "mindfulness" meditation and such want to try to be "relaxed," but the ultimate "relax" is not trying to be.

    You will find a section on breathing as part of our "We're All Beginners" video lessons here:

    A SERIES OF TALKS FOR NEW FOLKS
    https://www.treeleaf.org/forums/foru...-FOR-NEW-FOLKS

    Sorry to run long too.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH
    Last edited by Jundo; 04-28-2021 at 01:15 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Thank you Jundo, that answers my question!

  4. #4
    The breathing that relaxes us is, often, diaphragmatic, but also it's very slow. Which, paradoxically, means our blood has less oxygen than normal. We tend to think that having more oxygen is good, but, within the fine range of balance of acid and alkaline, a bit more CO2 actually relaxes us. Too much oxygen and we can hyperventilate. Too much CO2 and we yawn. But relaxing breathing is just a bit more CO2, and a bit less oxygen.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  5. #5
    also, the deep breathing produces nitric oxide which is beneficial to the endothelium that line the blood vessels and allow for dilation.

    Gassh. shokai
    stlah
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    May we all grow together in our knowledge of the Dharma

  6. #6
    Please Jundo, please do not delete this that it might help others. I try to sit zazen every day for at least 1/2 hour and often I meditate other places on the net several times for 20 minutes. I know how to do Tonglen, metta, and insight meditation. I have learned Tonglen from Kokuu, and followed insight meditation, gratitude meditation, and forgiveness meditation with Jack Kornfield on my CD. learned meditation for pain relief from Jon Kabot-Zinn, and others sit zazen with Zen masters on You Tube, often followed Jundo's videos on here. You must understand, I'm retired, have time. Started counting my breath about 10 years ago because I was afraid, nearly lost my life three times within a year, depressed because of my situation. I had heard of counting breath, so I began to sit in our recliner, gently close my eyes count my breath, first 1 to 4, later 1 to 10, had dropped much weight in one year, confined to our home, my computer skills not good, and the breath counting pulled me out of fear; a doctor put me on Oxycodone, not the answer. I gave that up on June 28, 2020 in the hospital, have continued to sit and meditate for 10 years. My doctor has repeatedly saved my life for 17 years; when I tell him this he says it's his job. I landed here in 2014 shortly after my 2nd book was published. I knew nothing really. I have taken Jukai twice, and if possible, I would like to do this again in 2022. Life is easier now. I have affirmed love for Marjorie many times. She has also saved my life many times. My psychiatrist put me on an antidepressant. I can breathe easier, and I still use breath counting, often slip into shikantaza, love my life here at Treeleaf. All have been good to me. Thank you from my heart. I know this is a kind of long history, but to show what is possible from a simple man, also what is possible over 10 years with free time. I'm retired. New folks not all at once. I didn't try everything at once, ask questions, learn any way you can, I have debt to pay the Man Dave, a Zen priest, I know only this name, who first told me about Treeleaf. He suggested I become a priest like him. I am too old. It might be too difficult at my age of 69. I love you all.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 05-11-2021 at 02:44 PM. Reason: concision, spelling.
    "Nothing is so beautiful as spring--/ When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush: Thrush eggs look little low heavens, and thrush/ Through the echoing timber does not rise and wring/ The ear it strikes like lightening to hear him sing;.." Hopkins

  7. #7
    I did a small amount of research, and I found that Shokai is right about nitric oxide. However in combination with proper intake of fruits and vegetables, and proper exercise, nitric oxide is produced as well (consult with your doctor as in my case some foods are prohibited), so all things considered. meditation in combination with exercise, and diet with proper fruits and vegetables can be an excellent way of maintaining nitric oxide along with other factors.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 05-11-2021 at 02:45 PM.
    "Nothing is so beautiful as spring--/ When weeds in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush: Thrush eggs look little low heavens, and thrush/ Through the echoing timber does not rise and wring/ The ear it strikes like lightening to hear him sing;.." Hopkins

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