It is only recently that researchers confirmed the existence of a correlation between respiratory problems and anxiety.24 The detailed descriptions provided by these researchers confirm the descriptions given by yogis and acupuncturists, as well as the impact of respiratory problems on almost all of the functions influenced by the vegetative regulatory mechanisms (circulation of the blood, sudden weaknesses, etc.). It is interesting to note that respiratory exercises can relieve anxiety for a moment, but only rarely provide a lasting modification of the connection between anxiety and the respiratory constriction. Yogis and Buddhists knew that anxiety is also caused by a way of thinking, a way of managing one’s affects. We still need more information on the complex mechanisms that influence the link between anxiety and breathing so that we can improve our way of working with respiration in the treatment of affective disorders. The difficulty is that once a physiological mode of functioning embeds itself in a stable organismic dynamic, it becomes difficult to change it. Body psychotherapists developed new methods to work on the emotional mechanisms that connect anxiety and breathing.
The Big Respiratory Circle Shows the Importance of Apneas
Try this: at the end of the next out-breath, just wait for the following in-breath to occur as though you were a cat waiting for a mouse to emerge from its hole. You know that the next in-breath will come, but you have no idea precisely when. So while your attention remains as alert and as poised in the present as that of a cat’s, it is free from any intention to control what will happen next. Without expectation, just wait. Then suddenly it happens and you catch itâ breathing. (Batchelor, 1991, p. 95 f.)
Besides exhalation and inhalation, yogis are very attentive to the apneas that separate breathing out from breathing in, and breathing in from breathing out. Finally, it is customary to distinguish thoracic respiration from ventral respiration. The first relates to the impact of the movements of the lungs on the rib cage, whereas the second relates to the impact of the movement of the diaphragm on the viscera of the abdomen. This leads to the basic schema shown in figure 1.1, which is utilized in many cultures.