Believing that the centre of emotion and thought comes from the heart is outdated. I’m sure you can appreciate that people, without modern science, would have made this mistake. Obviously the brain is in charge of emotion and thought. I’d argue that if there is a runner up to this throne that, not your heart, but your lungs are the manipulating prince in your royal temple of a body. They affect relaxation, stress, can bring about a free high, and bring your thoughts to the present moment if they start to wander or wonder if these holidays could have been just a biiiit longer.
The lungs can be used to manually teach relaxation to a dysregulated response to stress. An overly alert or tense body and mind can be coerced into a more regular response to stress by breathing in a particular way… Just bring the exhale down gently and focus on having your lungs empty for a moment without clenching. Bring your breath back in normally. Next, extend the exhale slowly into another soft drawn out pause to repeat. The long exhale and pause intentionally extends a parasympathetic state in the body and mind. This is a good thing – it manually teaches a dysregulated stress system that it can re-sync itself with relaxation. This technique is more efficient than just taking a ‘deep breath’ which in many respects is too simple of an instruction.
By contrast, a shallow habit of breathing promotes tension. I have fallen afoul of this upsetting trick of the lungs. Breathing shallow does not give your emotions and thoughts enough room to exercise their full range of high or low energies. I know this sounds like some kind of astral yogi talk – but your lungs will literally trap a mind into a level of sustained stress if given the chance. It’s not healthy or enjoyable. Simply opening your arms to the sides of your body – maybe to rest behind the neck of a Tinder crush will make you look confident and give your lungs more space. Immediately this can reduce the shallowness of your breathing. By contrast a restricted, arms crossed position can restrict your breath and foster a narrow, anxious mind.
Do you remember hyperventilating with your friends at school to get high? Each school had slightly different techniques… At HBHS I remember sitting against a wall, knees tucked and squeezed into the chest, inhaling/exhaling as hard as possible as my friends counted down from 30. At “one!” you’d release the knees, take in the biggest breath you could, and exhale while jumping to your feet. This is the sort of dumb shit we did for fun in Hamilton. You get a free high by depriving an already delinquent brain of oxygen. The “buzzy” experience of high CO2 and low O2 is the goal of the Wim Hoff method too. Mr. Hoff is an old man with the impulsivity and banter of a HBHS 1st XI striker. Don’t let that put you off, he’s entertaining and I recommend to you that you see his YouTube content. The point is – the lungs are used by people young and old to bring about a psychoactive experience. DISCLAIMER: don’t try this at home. People who try the Wim Hoff method are at risk of giving themselves a seizure. And people who try the HBHS method will probably hit their head and pass out – which as we all know kills 1/2 your brain cells (shout-out to the year 11 who told me that fun fact).
Should you find it difficult to pay attention because you’re worrying about last semester’s grades, or you’re making busy plans to improve on this semester’s grades, or you’re just trying to concentrate through the haze of re-O-week activities… Try the following advice involving the lungs to soothe those concerns:
“When you focus on your breathing you have to be in the present because you can’t breathe in the future or breath in the past.”
Noticing your breath is a basic, but a crucial way to feel relaxed and present in-the-moment. It’s a positive step towards an illusive meditation practice and helps with the relaxation practice from earlier.
Pay attention and take care of your lungs as they have a noticeable effect on many parts of your life. Remember too that the lungs come right up above your collar bones! So in a time of heavy headed decision making be sure to check in with the devil or angel sitting on your shoulders as those cheeky lungs could be (consciously or unconsciously) manipulating your thoughts for the worse or for the better.