ISAI The Martial Art of Formless Flow: Natural Breathing in ISAI

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Natural Breathing in ISAI

By Monya Gorelik, M.Sc., independent researcher
Edited by Yanay Gorelik

The character and ratio of breathing is dynamic and is a result of the activity and the emotional state of one. The breathing is performed via the nose mouth or both, depending on the level of emotional arousal and physical activity. This is also the kind of breathing that animals like dogs and cats use naturally and unconsciously.

Pure aerobic activity can last for a long time.

While performing pure aerobic activity oxygen plays a most important role as an energy source for the muscles so large quantities of incoming air and oxygenated blood are needed. High enough quantities of carbon dioxide are also needed in the blood, otherwise the oxygen will connect too strongly to the hemoglobin in the blood and will not be delivered to muscles and internal organs properly.
Pure anaerobic activity, on the other hand, can last only for a short time. The oxygen doesn't play in this type of activity any significant role as an energy source for the muscles. 

Pure aerobic or anaerobic activity is an only theoretical model and in real life such a thing does not exist, rather there are mostly this or that type of activity with very dynamic and constant changes.    

There are 4 different phases of breathing:
1.     Inhalation (In)
2.     Retention after inhalation (Retin)
3.     Exhalation (Ex)
4.     Retention after exhalation (Retex)
The breathing is a very changeable and dynamic process. We define different types of breathing in order to make it possible to describe and discuss the breathing process. We have to remember that in real life things are not defined so sharply, and mostly we deal with some kind of in-between situations, constantly and fluently changing.
Generally speaking, the way we inhale reflects our instinctive or even conscious anticipation of the immediately following activity, its character and its intensity. The following retention after inhalation is a result of the activity itself and not of the organism's needs for oxygen or carbon dioxide. The duration of the exhalation and of the following retention is, in fact, the adjustment mechanism used to regulate the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.  

Types of breathing during aerobic activities

Rest breathing
When one is relaxed and calm, during sleep or deep meditation, the breathing naturally done completely through the nostrils. While in these states, the inhalation (In) is evidently longer, sometimes as much as twice, than the exhalation (Ex). There is no distinguishable phase of retention after inhalation (Retin), and after the short and relaxed exhalation comes retention after exhalation (Retex), which can be twice as long as the inhalation. In short, the ratio of In:Retin:Ex:Retex is roughly 2:0:1:4.
While resting the most common, and fitting, type of breathing is nasal breathing. Nasal inhalation can't be fast - the low pressure of incoming air will cause the nostrils to close on themselves, partially closing the air passages. Thus, nasal inhalation is always slow and when performed naturally it can be seen in relaxed state of body and mind. Such inhalation is also the most efficient in terms of energy expenses.

In this type of inhalation the center of the diaphragm is slowly moving downwards and hence opposed by the gradually growing resistance of the internal organs, pushed back up by the abdominal muscles as well as by the lower-back and torso muscles. As a result the downward motion of the center of diaphragm is stopped and the edges of gradually flattening diaphragm will rise up. These edges are attached to the ribs, causing them to move up. The upper back is pushed backwards causing us to stand more erect. When the inhalation is done slowly and gently the participation of the intercostal muscles, running between the ribs and lifting them up, will be minimal- resulting in the most "cost effective" inhalation.

During this type of inhalation the oxygenation will be slow and its level by the end of the inhalation will be low (hypoxia). The more relaxed one is, the shallower are his inhalations. The following exhalation expels the air from the lungs right after the inhalation and before most of the oxygen was collected by the hemoglobin. The short and passive exhalation  reduces the duration of time the incoming air fills the lungs and therefore reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. In this type of breathing the level of blood oxygenation is low, and after the exhalation starts a passive retention which considerably lowers acidity of the blood.  
Calm breathing
This type of breathing takes place during calm and slow activities or sniffing. The air enters and is expelled through the nostrils, and the need in oxygen is higher than during Rest Breathing. During Calm Breathing the inhalation can be shorter and deeper, and provides higher blood oxygenation, but the main difference is in the exhalation and following retention. The exhalation is significantly longer, even as long as the inhalation. The longer exhalation results in higher levels of carbon dioxide in the blood which  weakens the bonds between oxygen and hemoglobin and causes more oxygen to pass from erythrocytes to the muscles and the internal organs.  It is very short or without any retention after the exhalation or after the inhalation. To sum things up, the ratio of In:Retin:Ex:Retex is around 1:0:1:0.

Intensive breathing
This type of breathing occurs during intensive aerobic activities such as fast walking, running, swimming, boxing, etc. The need in oxygen is significantly higher than in Calm breathing. Faster and deeper inhalation and longer exhalation result in both hyperoxia and hyperсapnia.  This kind of breathing supplies much more oxygen to the organs. The air passes in and out through both the mouth and the nostrils.
The ratio of In:Retin:Ex:Retex is around 1:0:1:0.

Types of breathing during anaerobic activities
In these types of breathing both the inhalation and the exhalation are always done through the mouth and, partially, through the nostrils. This method of inhaling is a result of the anticipation of possible needs for higher quantities of oxygen (mostly needed to oxidize lactic acid into carbon dioxide and water) until the next inhalation. The exhalation through the mouth reflects the fast, dynamic and sensitive regulation of the internal pressure. This pressure is better produced not only by partial closure of the voice chords but also by also by partial closure produced by the lips and by especially the tongue - a most sensitive, convenient and manageable organ to regulate the flow of exhalation. 

Breathing during low intensity anaerobic activity
This type of breathing takes place during hiding, sneaking, passive diving, long yawning, light  self-stretching (pandiculation), long laughing, crying, long cough, sighing, pronouncing long phrases or singing , Kaatsu exercises, etc.
Inhalation and exhalation are done through the mouth and partially through the nostrils.

Breathing during medium intensity anaerobic activity
This type of breathing takes place during intensive crying, coughing, laughing, active yawning, active diving, Kaatsu, keeping postures with blocked veins or with restricted breathing and significant effort, significant pain, stress.
Inhalation and exhalation are done through the mouth and partially through the nostrils.
Exhalation can be done through partially closed mouth producing sounds: a, ha, u, hu, o, ho, fu (hardly hearable), vv, mm, nn, ss, ts, zz.
Short retentions can interrupt inhalations and exhalations.

Breathing during high intensity anaerobic activity
This type of breathing takes place during intensive anaerobic activities or stressful situations.
Inhalation and exhalation are done through the mouth and partially through the nostrils, and retentions are possible between inhalations and exhalations. Short retentions also can interrupt inhalations and exhalations.
The exhalation can be done through a partially closed mouth producing sounds: a, ha, u, hu, o, ho, fu (hardly hearable), vv, mm, nn, ss, ts, zz.
The more tightly are the air passages closed, the more considerable is the effort of the abdominal muscles, of the intercostal muscles and of the diaphragm.
The sounds a, ha, u, hu, o, ho are produced by partial closure of the voice chords.
The sounds fu, vv, mm are produced by partial closure of the voice chords and the lips and the sound nn, ss, ts, zz – by partial closure of the voice chords and the tongue.
There are also other sounds which different cultures and different people produce. The sounds I mention above reflect my personal knowledge and experience.
Dynamic stress is a normal phenomenon and without it the life is impossible.
If the breathing and the muscle tension are not corresponding to the level of stress one is experiencing, it can result in the continuation of the stress and eventually chronic stress, which in turn can cause different diseases like high blood pressure, high "bad" cholesterol, diabetics, heart diseases, allergies, etc.  
Inopportune Breathing
Every activity and emotional arousal will result in hormonal changes - causing a dynamic stress - in order to maximize the efficiency of the body functioning. These changes also take place in energy supply to the muscles and internal organs. The most dynamic and visually significant part of such changes are the changes in the breathing, which is of utmost importance for this process.
If activity, emotional state and breathing are harmonized - the stress is very dynamic. It reacts distinctly and is sensitive to any change. After a while one naturally calms down and his stress level comes to a very low level and eventually disappears. However, we witness ever-growing number of stress and chronic stress maladies, because in our society and way of life people breath the way they were taught as proper breathing. This breathing is mostly performed only through the nose and lacks  the dynamic changes and adaptations described above. This breathing is inopportune to real-life situations.
The movements of yawning and pandiculation (stretching oneself ) and breathing as described above are the natural reactions for the stress. Born by stress, they calm it down and cease it in a very quickly and in most natural and pleasant way.
This self-treatment will result in extremely fast and tremendous effect on one's health and a general feeling of well-being, which is more pleasant the more severe the stress one suffers from is.

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