The Breathing Method Essay Definition

First edition cover.

"It is the tale, not he who tells it."

Different Seasons is a collection of four novellas by Stephen King. Published in 1982, it represented something of a departure for King at that point, as three of the novellas were straight dramatic stories (albeit with some horrific elements) that did not deal with the supernatural fiction that he was known for.The four novellas in Different Seasons are, in order presented:
  • Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (or, Hope Springs Eternal) - Hope springs eternal, even in prison. Made into the number one movie on IMDb's Top 250.
  • Apt Pupil (or, Summer of Corruption) - A teenage boy learns about the Holocaust right from the source. Made into a movie starring Sir Ian McKellen.
  • The Body (or, Fall from Innocence) - Four young friends trek into the woods to see another boy's corpse. Made into a movie under the title Stand by Me.
  • The Breathing Method (or, A Winter's Tale) - A single woman wants to carry her child to term, no matter what. It has never been made into a movie, and it would probably be really hard to do so.
In addition to the novellas, the book contains an afterword by King in which he speaks about being typecast as a horror writer, and the plight of the unfortunate author who has written a story that is too short to be sold as a novel, and yet too long to comfortably be printed by short-fiction magazines and anthologies.

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    Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption contains examples of: 

  • Ass Shove: Andy smuggles five hundred dollars into the prison by this method. Taken Up to 11 by Red at the end, in which he smuggles out the pages on which he is writing the manuscript with the same trick. The novella is nearly one hundred pages long.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Andy is a "rockhound", an amateur geologist. This gives him an idea.
  • Divorce in Reno: Linda Dufresne was murdered right after she told Andy she wanted a Reno divorce.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Red narrates but the focus of the story is on Andy. Red says as much: "Anyway, it's not me I want to tell you about; I want to tell you about a guy named Andy Dufresne."
  • Foreshadowing:
    • For a little while, Andy had a cellmate. After the cellmate is moved out, he complains about how Andy's cell was unusually drafty.
    • Andy also talks about looking at the posters of pretty girls that he hangs in his cell and feeling like he could step through them.
  • Gambit Roulette: A large passage in the novella consists of Red enumerating all of the things that might have gone wrong with Andy's plan, but somehow did not.
  • Hope Springs Eternal: The subtitle of the novella.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: Unfortunately for Andy he threw his gun in the river the day before the murders, so the cops can't check it against the bullets.
  • Insurance Fraud: This version of Red is a little more evil than the movie's. He took out insurance on his wife and then cut the brakes to her car.
  • The Old Con: Brooks, who spends nearly thirty years in jail and is crying when he has to leave. He dies in a home for indigent old folks after only being out a year, and Red is surprised he made it that long.
  • Prison Rape: Happens to Andy at the hands of the "sisters", a rapist gang. Andy has Bogs the lead rapist beaten, and gets the others to leave him alone as payment for helping Hadley with an inheritance.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Red tells a story about a Shawshank prisoner who escaped by simply walking out the front door while the gate was open and the guards were changing shifts.
  • The Scrounger: Red's unofficial job in prison, as "the guy who can get it for you" at Shawshank.
  • Shout-Out: Rita Hayworth! Also, the prisoners watch The Lost Weekend.
  • Sitch Sexuality: Sometimes heterosexual prisoners in Shawshank come to "an arrangement" and become intimate.
  • Take a Third Option: Andy uses these exact words to describe the Black and Gray Morality of laundering the money that flows through the prison. He has no qualms about what he does for the warden, because it's not that different from what he was doing outside of prison. The novel then describes two extremes: the first is to be incorruptible and never get your hands dirty, and the other end of the spectrum is to wallow in filth and misery. Andy takes the third option by doing enough to get by without killing anyone.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: How Red killed his wife, by cutting the brakes in her car. Red didn't anticipate a neighbor lady and her little baby hitching a ride first.

    Apt Pupil contains examples of: 

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The original ending was pure Nightmare Fuel, with Todd murdering his guidance counsellor and going on a 5-hour shooting spree in a populated area before getting shot to death by the police. In the film he just blackmails the guy to keep the secret about Todd's connections to Kurt Dussander and goes off to college.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Although obsessed with Nazi crimes in both versions, Todd is a lot less nasty in the film version than he is in the novella. In the book he is a budding sociopath who fantasizes about raping a captive woman in a concentration camp and, together with Dussander, becomes a serial killer of hobos before he kills his guidance counsellor and finally goes on a killing spree that ends in his death. In the film Todd comes across as more disturbed and immature than unfeeling and homicidal, doesn't have anything as explicit as a rape fantasy during his dreams about the camps, he and Dussander only kill one homeless person who found out that Dussander was a former Nazi, and Todd simply blackmails his guidance counsellor and goes to college after Dussander dies.
  • The All-American Boy: Todd is introduced as one in the opening sentence: "He looked like the total all-American kid as he pedalled his twenty-six-inch Schwinn with the ape-hanger handlebars up the residential suburban street, and that's just what he was..." Of course, he ends up veering very far from this type, but preserves the outward image.
  • Ax-Crazy: Todd is seriously messed up and his fixation on the Holocaust doesn’t help matters much. It gets to the point where’s he sniping at drivers from the top of a highway For the Evulz before losing it completely and going on a killing spree.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: After he breaks his back and gets paralyzed from the waist down, Morris Heisel tries to console himself by thinking about how many people have it worse than him - and how he himself used to have it worse, since he's a Holocaust survivor.
  • The Atoner: Very darkly subverted. At first, Dussander tries to avoid discussing his past with Todd and is reluctant to go into any detail about it, seemingly out of shame and remorse for the things he had done. The more information Todd coaxes out of him, however, the more Dussander begins recalling his past atrocities with fondness and admiration, and with that comes the desire to relive them. It quickly becomes clear that he had never repented of his evil, but merely suppressed it.
  • Bad Dreams: Kurt Dussander, who used to be a commander of a Nazi concentration camp, frequently has nightmares about it. He eventually commits suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills, and he ends up dreaming those dreams — forever.
    • Todd's first wet dream is of Dussander directing him to rape a Jewish prisoner as part of an "experiment."
  • Brick Joke: "He doesn't look like Peter Wimsey at all."
  • Broken Ace: Todd Bowden is an A student who becomes morbidly fascinated with the Holocaust and blackmails Dussander into giving him more gruesome details. This eventually causes him (and Dussander) to snap.
  • The Cameo: Dussander made his money in America thanks to stock tips from Andy Dufresne, and is amused at his going to prison a year later.
  • Cool Old Guy: Subverted, in that the reason Todd thinks Dussander is "cool" is because he killed thousands of people and can dispense every grisly detail.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: It starts when Todd finds magazines about World War II in his friend's garage and becomes morbidly fascinated by the Holocaust. It continues when he decides to get firsthand "gooshy stuff" from Dussander instead of turning him in. It finally ends with Todd becoming a multiple murderer.
  • Crisis of Faith: Morris Heisel survived the Holocaust, while his first wife and his two daughters perished. Decades later, after he falls from a ladder, breaks his spine and becomes crippled, he declares what he has long believed is true; there is no God. He regains his faith in God after he ends up in the same hospital room with Dussander, who was the commander of the camp he was imprisoned in, and manages to identify him, which leads to Dussander's capture.
  • Dead Man Switch: Todd, while blackmailing Dussander, claims he left a letter (exposing Dussander) with a friend, to be opened and read in the event of his own death. When Dussander turns the tables and blackmails Todd, he claims that he left a complete account of Todd's actions in a bank deposit box, to be opened and read on the event of Dussander's death. They're both bluffing.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Todd is implied to have latent homosexual feelings.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Todd begins killing homeless "winos" as he grows older. Dussander also begins killing local homeless men, and doesn't reveal he knows what Todd has been up to until much later.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Invoked in-universe. Todd started to "groove" on the Holocaust by reading old war magazines which condemned the murders of six million Jews, right before printing ads which sold Nazi paraphernalia.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: This is implied to happen to Dussander when he dies of a sleeping pill overdose.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Pretty much the whole point of the novella.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Dussander comes off as unfailingly polite and courteous in proper company, such as when he warmly chats with a young nurse about her engagement and says to tell him everything, and omit nothing. His fellow convalescent recognizes to his horror that the words and tone Dussander uses are the exact same as those of the concentration camp commander who interrogated him long ago.
  • From Bad to Worse: The whole last thirty pages or so is the systematic unraveling of both Todd's web of lies and his sanity. First, Rubber Ed finds out about Todd's earlier deception where Dussander posed as his grandfather. Then, he finds out about the doctored report cards. Then, Dussander gets identified and reported by one of his former victims. Then, Dussander commits suicide, wearing on Todd's nerves even more with the fear of his non-existent document. Then, the police find the remains of Dussander's murders. Then, they start to suspect Todd of associating with Dussander, while the Israeli agent suspects him of the bum murders. Then, Rubber Ed sees that the man who posed as Todd's grandfather was a Nazi war criminal. Then, a bum fingers Todd on his murders, having seen him walk off with a victim and then seen his picture in the paper. Then, Rubber Ed confronts Todd and is killed for his troubles. And THEN, Todd goes completely insane and dies committing a massacre.
  • Great Escape: Andy tunnels through his wall, crawls through a sewer pipe, and escapes from prison.
  • Hey, You!: Dussander never uses Todd's name; instead, he always calls him "boy". Even when he impersonates Todd's grandfather (which is noticed by Rubber Ed, the guidance counsellor). Todd is annoyed by this:

    Dussander had always called him 'boy'. Only that. Contemptuous. Anonymous. Yes, that was it, anonymous. As anonymous as a concentration camp serial number.

    • Dussander does use Todd's name a few times over the course of the story, just not in the context of addressing Todd personally.
      • The reason he doesn't do so may have something to do with the fact that 'Tod' is the German word for 'death'.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Todd blows it when he reveals to the detective investigating Dussander's case that only the letter was stolen from Dussander's house and nothing else. The detective quickly realizes the only way Todd would know that is if he had take the letter himself.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: One of the most twisted imaginable.
  • Karma Houdini: Todd in the film version, which removes his final massacre. It's left ambiguous whether he does manage to beat the rap for his involvement with Dussander, with the film ending after he states his intention to blackmail Ed into keeping quiet, by claiming he's made inappropriate gestures towards him in exchange for good grades.
  • Kick the Dog: Todd squashes an injured blue jay with his bike tire and proceeds to go back and forth over its corpse for no reason whatsoever.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Todd has a girlfriend because he wants to look normal. However, by this time, he is a misogynistic, hateful monster, and he's only able to perform when he's thinking of rape and abuse; eventually, not even then.
  • Meaningful Name / Bilingual Bonus: At one point Todd muses on the fact that Dussander never calls him by his name. It's not stated outright in the text, but it may be because "tod" is German for death.
  • Mythology Gag: Dussander tells Todd that he now lives on stock dividends—stocks that were picked out for him by a banker in Maine who went to prison for murdering his wife....

    Dussander: "Dufresne, his name was—I remember, because it sounds a little like mine. It seems he was not so smart at wife-killing as he was at picking growth stocks."

    • "Denker" is the name of the sadistic teacher in Jack Torrance's play, The Little School.
  • Nazi Grandpa: Arthur Denker — real name Kurt Dussander. He pretends to be a German emigrant who fought in the army during the war; he was actually the commander of a minor concentration camp.
  • Nazi Protagonist: The two main characters are an ex-Nazi (Dussander) and a young boy (Todd) who wants to learn everything about Dussander's time in Germany.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Only one sentence is used to describe Todd's shooting spree at the end of the story.
  • Punch-Clock Villain:
    • Dussander claims to be one at first: "The problem was not of my making, nor was the solution. I was given orders and directives, which I followed." However, as we found out later, he's actually a sadistic monster.
    • Weiskopf, the Israeli agent sent to America after Dussander's secret is exposed says this about the architects of a possible new Holocaust: "I think most of them would look like ordinary accountants. Little mind-men with graphs and flow-charts and electronic calculators, all ready to start maximizing the kill ratios so that next time we could perhaps kill twenty or thirty millions instead of only seven or eight or twelve."
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Morris Heisel is a Holocaust survivor whose first wife, Ruth, died in a concentration camp. He imagines what he would say, if God appeared to him like he did to Job and said "Where were you when I made the world?"

    Where were You when my Ruth was dying, You potzer, You? Watching the Yankees and the Senators? If You can't pay attention to Your business better than this, get out of my face.

  • Really Gets Around: Todd's girlfriend, Betty Trask. According to Todd, she "was the kind of girl who fucked on the first date. On every date. And in between dates."
  • Retired Monster: Todd is fascinated by his old neighbour, Kurt Dussander, who took part in Nazi atrocities. His increasing fascination with the old man slowly brings back the monster in him, and awakens it in Todd.
  • Serial Killer: Both Dussander and Todd become serial killers of homeless alcoholics.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The film adaptation spares the lives of both Todd himself and his guidance counsellor. In the novella, Todd kills him before going on a shooting spree that ultimately ends with Todd being taken down by the police.
  • Stand-In Parents: Dussander attends a parent/teacher conference at Todd's school, impersonating his grandfather so that they can manage to keep Todd's parents from finding out that his grades are in free fall.
  • Soap Punishment: When Todd says "suck my cock" to Dussander, he replies that if he said something like that as a boy, he would've had his mouth washed with lye soap.
  • Stepford Smiler: Todd maintains the image of a cheery all-American golden boy even while he's blackmailing the neighbourhood Nazi-in-hiding into telling gruesome concentration camp stories. It's all downhill from there.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Todd. He learns that his elderly next-door neighbour is a Nazi fugitive, but doesn't turn him in because he wants to learn the "gooshy stuff" about the Holocaust. As his Odd Friendship with the Nazi continues, Todd graduates from dreaming about raping concentration camp inmates to becoming a hobo-mauling serial killer. Finally, Todd kills his guidance counsellor and snipes motorists on an expressway.
  • The Sociopath: Todd. Extremely Ax-Crazy, no empathy whatsoever, has a history of murdering animals for kicks, and is very manipulative, coaxing Kurt into telling him Holocaust stories for his own amusement.
  • That Poor Cat: Used repeatedly when Dussander is trying to force the cat into the oven. It manages to get away in the film version, but isn't so lucky in the novella.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: One of the first things we learn about 13-year-old Todd Bowden is that his thought process and manner of speech are both incredibly mature for a kid his age. The next thing we learn is that he has a very disturbing fascination with the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and is very eager to hear all the "gooshy" details from a firsthand source. Things get a lot worse from there.
  • You Are What You Hate: Todd is repulsed by one of his girlfriends, thinking that she is Jewish (due to the influence Dussander has had on him). He himself is 1/8 Jewish.
    • Dussander himself claims he and Todd have something in common, in that Dussander's mother was a Jew — it is unclear whether he was serious or joking.

     The Body contains examples of: 

  • Abusive Parents: Teddy's ears are disfigured due to his father's pressing them down on a hot stove in a drunken rage. Chris's father is also violently abusive, and Gordie's is emotionally abusive, clearly favoring Gordie's older brother over him, despite the fact that said brother is dead.
  • Author Stand-In: Gordie Lachance, the sensitive and imaginative boy Stephen King used to be.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final confrontation between the four friends and the older boys at the site of the corpse takes place during a rainstorm, and in the middle of hailstorms Chris tells Gordie to "stay with me".
  • Boring Return Journey: Barely a chapter of the narrative devoted to the uneventful return home.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: "A thin stream of urine ran listlessly down the inside of one thigh" when Gordie reached down to the railroad track and felt it vibrating with the approach of a train.
  • Call-Forward: It's mentioned that Chopper was the most feared dog in the county until Cujo went rabid 20 years later.
  • Continuity Nod: One of the boys makes an offhand reference to Shawshank Prison, the subject of another story in this collection.
  • Critical Research Failure: In-Universe, Gordie mentions writing a story as a boy involving Americans retaking a French town from the Nazis, and setting it in 1942, only finding out later that the U.S. Army didn't land in France until 1944.
  • The Dreaded: Chopper, the dog that guards the junkyard, is built up to be the second coming of Cujo. In reality, not so much.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Two days over Labor Day weekend.
  • Groin Attack: Part of the beatdown Ace administers to Gordie near the end of the story.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: A teenaged non-alcoholic version. But after Gordie and Vern barely escape death from an oncoming train, a jittery Chris suggests they all drink the Cokes they got at the grocery.
  • Mythology Gag: Gordie notes that Chopper's legend as the scariest dog in Castle Rock has since been supplanted by Cujo.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Gordie dreams that Vern and Teddy drag Chris into water and drown him.
  • Parental Abandonment: The novella makes it clear that this is not something that started after Denny's death - Gordie once swore at the dinner table just to see what would happen ("Please pass those goddamn spuds."), and the only response was his mother telling Denny that his aunt asked how he was doing.
    • It's a literal case with the Chambers family. Chris' oldest brother Frank is in jail. His dad, during the Labour Day weekend when the events of the story occurred, is on a bender, sending his mother to visit her sister out of town. She, in turn leaves the youngest three (ages 9, 5, and 2) in the care of Eyeball, who runs off with Ace, in turn, leaving the little ones alone.
  • Parental Favoritism: Gordie's parents visibly favored Denny over Gordie, to the point of barely acknowledging Gordie's existence at all.
  • Racing the Train: The boys race a train on foot, not because they want to, but because they're on a railroad bridge.
  • Railroad to Horizon: Gordie remembers this as part of what "summer" means to him.
  • Sadist Teacher: One teacher was rumored to have struck a child blind.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Teddy's father didn't quite entirely come back from WWII. After burning his son's ears he was sent to a VA insane asylum.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Don't go looking for dead bodies or you will acquire a death curse.
  • Story Within a Story: "The Revenge of Lard-Ass Hogan" as well as a story Gordie wrote early in his writing career called "Stud City."
  • The Storyteller: Gordie, a young and imaginative writer.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Teddy is almost the personification of this trope. His truck-dodging, "that time in the tree," etc.
  • Treehouse of Fun: The boys hang out in one of these at the beginning.
  • The Unfavorite: Gordie's parents never show much affection to him, preferring Gordie's older brother. In flashbacks, it shows they didn't pay much attention to him, anyway.
  • We Will Meet Again: Ace says this after Gordie pulls the gun on him. Sure enough, Ace and his gang gives each of the boys a Curb-Stomp Battle after they return to town.
  • World's Smallest Violin: What Gordie says near the end of the story as Chris talks about how
  • You Know I'm Black, Right?: "How do you know when a Frenchman's been in your back yard? Well, your garbage cans are empty and your dog is pregnant. Teddy would try to look offended, but he was the first one to bring in a joke as soon as he heardit, only switching Frenchman to Polack."

    The Breathing Method contains examples of: 

  • Determinator: Sandra. After being decapitated in a car accident, she refuses to die until she gives birth.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Sandra tells Dr. McCarron the story of how her boss fired her when her pregnancy began to show, in the process treating her very shabbily. It made Sandra so angry that to avoid blowing up and trashing the office, she controlled herself using the Breathing Method.
  • Eldritch Location: The club itself is implied to be one. Adley reads several novels and poetry collections there that have no evidence of existing anywhere outside the clubhouse, and near the end of the story he takes notice of a corridor leading out of the main chamber that he doesn't recall ever being there before.
  • Losing Your Head: Sandra Stansfield, who's about to give birth is decapitated in a car accident in front of the hospital. She remains alive and conscious for several minutes from sheer willpower until she gives birth to her son.
  • Meaningful Name: Stevens, the Club's butler.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Dr. McCarron specifically cautions Sandra against this, relating to her an anecdote of a woman who used a girdle to hide her condition, possibly causing the birth defects her child ended up with.
  • Orphaned Punchline: A horror variant: readers will eternally wonder how a man could drown in a telephone booth, or why "His head is still speaking in the earth!"
  • Riddle for the Ages: There's something strange about the club. It has books that cannot be found anywhere else, published by companies nobody has ever heard of. The narrator once tries to ask Stevens, the butler about where all these things come from. But all he manages to ask is: "Are there many more rooms upstairs?"

    Stevens: Oh, yes, sir. A great many. A man could become lost. In fact, men have become lost. Sometimes it seems to me that they go on for miles. Rooms and corridors.

  • Screaming Birth: Averted. Sandra practices the titular breathing method, which is designed to let the woman "use her breath for something more useful than screaming". Unfortunately, this is a contributing factor in her death; the taxi driver taking her to hospital is creeped out when she's breathing heavily but not screaming, turns to check if she's okay, skids on a patch of ice, and crashes the cab, killing her, though she doesn't let a little thing like decapitation interfere with the delivery of her child. The narrator, Dr McCarron, mentions that this was very common in the '30s, since women heard from everywhere that giving birth is very painful -- so it turned out to be painful.
  • Sequel Hook: "Yes, always more tales. And perhaps, one day, I'll tell you another." (In fact, there is a sequel-of-sorts about the Club at 249B: "The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands" from Skeleton Crew.)
  • Smoky Gentlemen's Club: The narrator attends a gentlemen's club which features storytelling as well as the usual socialising, brandy-drinking and the like. There's something eerie about the club, but we never find out exactly what it is.
  • Year X: In the framing story, David Adley first starts attending The Club in 196-, and Emlyn McCarron tells the Breathing Method story in 197-. Throughout the entire novella, no last numbers are given for any dates.

Article Page
The Science of Breathing
Sarah Novotny and Len Kravitz, Ph.D.

Breathing techniques and patterns are regularly advocated for relaxation, stress management, control of psycho physiological states and to improve organ function (Ritz and Roth, 2003). Anatomically speaking there is a favorable equilibrium (balance in breathing pressures) with breathing, which can be easily disrupted by fatigue or prolonged sympathetic (excitatory) nervous system arousal as seen with stress. One therapeutic goal of yoga is that it may reduce or alleviate some of the chronic negative effects of stress. This stress relief is one reason that breathing, or pranayama as it is called in yoga, is very central to yoga practices. This article will endeavor to explain the physiological mechanisms and the mind-body connection of breathing, as well as many of the research driven applications utilized with breathing. Fitness professionals and personal trainers will become more aware of the truths and myths of breathing, and related conditions, so that they can better guide and teach their students and clients.

Breathing Mechanics 101
Breathing, called ventilation consists of two phases, inspiration and expiration. During inspiration the diaphragm and the external intercostal muscles contract. The diaphragm moves downward increasing the volume of the thoracic (chest) cavity, and the external intercostal muscles pull the ribs up and outward, expanding the rib cage, further increasing this chest volume. This increase of volume lowers the air pressure in the lungs as compared to atmospheric air. Because air always flows from a region of high pressure to an area of lower pressure, it travels in through the body’s conducting airway (nostrils, throat, larynx and trachea) into the alveoli of the lungs. During a resting expiration the diaphragm and external intercostal muscles relax, restoring the thoracic cavity to its original (smaller) volume, and forcing air out of the lungs into the atmosphere. Whereas breathing is involved with the movement of air into and out of the thoracic cavity, respiration involves the exchange of gases in the lungs.

Respiration Mechanics 102
With each breath, air passes through it’s conducting zone into the microscopic air sacs in the lunges called alveoli. It is here that external (referring to the lungs) respiration occurs. External respiration is the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air and the blood in the lungs. Blood enters the lungs via the pulmonary arteries. It then proceeds through arterioles and into the very tiny alveolar capillaries. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the blood and the air; oxygen is loaded onto the red blood cells while carbon dioxide is unloaded from them into the air. The oxygenated blood then flows out of the alveolar capillaries, through venules, and back to the heart via the pulmonary veins. The heart then pumps the blood throughout the systemic arteries to deliver oxygen throughout the body.

How Does Your Body Control Breathing? Introducing the Metabolic Control
The respiratory center in the brainstem is responsible for controlling a person’s breathing rate. It sends a message to the respiratory muscles telling them when to breathe. The medulla, located nearest the spinal cord, directs the spinal cord to maintain breathing, and the pons, a part of the brain very near the medulla, provides further smoothing of the respiration pattern. This control is automatic, involuntary and continuous. You do not have to consciously think about it.

The respiratory center knows how to control the breathing rate and depth by the amount (or percent) of carbon dioxide, oxygen and acidosis in the arterial blood (Willmore and Costill, 2004). There are receptors, called chemoreceptors, in the arch of the aorta and throughout the arteries that send signals and feedback (to the respiratory center) to increase or decrease the ventilatory output depending on the condition of these metabolic variables. For example, when you exercise, carbon dioxide levels increase significantly which alert the chemoreceptors, which subsequently notify the brain’s respiratory center to increase the speed and depth of breathing. This elevated respiration rids the body of excess carbon dioxide and supplies the body with more oxygen, which are needed during aerobic exercise. Upon cessation of the exercise, breathing rate and depth gradually declines until carbon dioxide in the arterial blood returns to normal levels; the respiratory center will no longer be activated, and breathing rate is restored to a pre-exercise pattern. This arterial pressure regulation feedback system that carbon dioxide, oxygen and blood acid levels provide is referred to as the metabolic control of breathing (Gallego, Nsegbe, and Durand, 2001).

How Does Your Body Control Breathing? Introducing the Behavioral Control
Breathing is most unique as compared to other visceral (e.g. digestion, endocrine cardiovascular) functions in that it can also be regulated voluntarily. The behavioral, or voluntary control of breathing is located in the cortex of the brain and describes that aspect of breathing with conscious control, such as a self-initiated change in breathing before a vigorous exertion or effort. Speaking, singing and playing some instruments (e.g. clarinet, flute, saxophone, trumpet, etc.) are good examples of the behavioral control of breathing and are short-lived interventions (Guz, 1997). As well, the behavioral control of breathing encompasses accommodating changes in breathing such as those changes from stress and emotional stimuli. The differentiation between voluntary and automatic (metabolic) breathing is that automatic breathing requires no attention to maintain, whereas voluntary breathing involves a given amount of focus (Gallego, Nsegbe, and Durand, 2001). Gallego and colleagues note that it is not fully understood how the behavioral and metabolic controls of respirations are linked.

So, What is Pranayama Breathing?
Pranayama breathing is often performed in yoga and meditation. It means the practice of voluntary breath control and refers to inhalation, retention and exhalation that can be performed quickly or slowly (Jerath et al., 2006). As such, yoga breathing is considered “an intermediary between the mind and body (Sovik, 2000).” In many yoga stories and literature the word ‘prana’ (part of the word ‘pranayama’ for breathing) refers to the ‘life force’ or energy. This has many applications, especially as it relates to the energy producing processes within the body. There is a direct connection between the ‘prana’ or energy of breathing and its effects on energy liberation in the body. Cellular metabolism (reactions in the cell to produce energy) for example, is regulated by oxygen provided during breathing. The yoga purpose of breath training is not to over-ride the body’s autonomic systems; although there is clear evidence that pranayama breathing techniques can effect oxygen consumption and metabolism (Jerath et al., 2006). In fact, much of the aim of pranayama breathing appears to shift the autonomic nervous system away from its sympathetic (excitatory) dominance. Pranayama breathing has been shown to positively affect immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders (Jerath et al., 2006). Jerath and colleagues add that investigations regarding stress and psychological improvements support evidence that pranayama breathing alters the brain’s information processing, making it an intervention that improves a person’s psychological profile. Sovik notes that the main philosophy behind the yoga control of breathing is to “increase awareness and understanding of the relationship between cognitive states, physical functioning, and breathing styles.” According to Sovik, breath training includes the ability to sustain relaxed attention on the flow of breath, to refine and control respiratory movements for optimal breathing, and to integrate awareness and respiratory functioning in order to reduce stress and enhance psychological functioning.

It is interesting to also recognize that there are several different types of breathing common to yoga, including the complete yoga breath (conscious breathing in the lower, middle, and upper portions of the lungs), interval breathing (in which the duration of inhalation and exhalation are altered), alternate nostril breathing, and belly breathing to name a few (Collins, 1998, Jerath et al., 2006). It is also equally worthy to observe that breath awareness was originally developed to the movements being done by the yogi to achieve the joining of the mind, body, and spirit in search for self-awareness, health and spiritual growth (Collins). Collins points out that some of the breathing techniques utilized with yoga postures are more complex to learn (for some people) and often require independent practice outside of the postures themselves. Although numerous studies show clinically beneficial health effects of pranayama breathing, some studies show that fast breathing pranayama can cause hyperventilation, which may hyperactivate the sympathetic nervous system, stressing the body more (Jerath et al., 2006). Thus some breathing pranayama techniques may be contraindicated for those with asthma (See Side Bar 1 on asthma), leading to agitated bronchial hyperactivity.

Slow pranayama breathing techniques show the most practical and physiological benefit, yet the underlying mechanism how they work is not fully elucidated in the research (Jerath et al., 2006). However, Jerath and colleagues hypothesize that “the voluntary, slow deep breathing functionally resets the autonomic nervous system through stretch-induced inhibitory signals and hyperpolarization (slowing electrical action potentials) currents…which synchronizes neural elements in the heart, lungs, limbic system and cortex.” As well, investigations have demonstrated that slow breathing pranayama breathing techniques activate the parasympathetic (inhibitory) nervous system, thus slowing certain physiological processes down that may be functioning too fast or conflicting with the homeostasis of the cells (Jerath et al., 2006).

Breath Awareness and Yoga: Making the Connection
In order to maintain awareness on breathing and to reduce distractions, yoga participants use comfortable postures with the eyes closed. The outcome of mastering this breath control is that an individual can voluntarily use these practices to ease stressful or discomforting situations. Yoga participants learn how to deal with distractions and stress without having an emotionally stimulating physiological response. They practice doing this by first recognizing whatever the distraction or thought may be, and then returning or restoring the focus of attention back to breathing (Sovik, 2000). The re-focus centers on the thoughts “I am breathing” (Sovik). Yoga enthusiasts also use ‘asanas’ or specific postures with pranayama breathing, linking the movement or body position with the breathing. Jerath et al. (2006) state that more research is needed to understand how the combined approach of breathing and asanas elicit beneficial health outcomes.

Optional Breathing: Activating the Diaphragm
The everyday experiences of breathing for most untrained individuals is much more inconsistent than one would assume. Practices in yoga often first teach individuals to observe their own breathing to ultimately familiarize the student with the sensations of respiration. Thus, one meaningful aspect in learning breathing techniques is the awareness in the difference in smooth, even breathing to erratic breathing. Modifications in respiratory patterns come naturally to some individuals after one lesson, however, it may take up to six months to replace bad habits, and ultimately change the way one breathes (Sovik, 2000). The general rule, often noted in studies, and particularly observed by Gallego et al. (2001) was that if a voluntary act is repeated, “learning occurs, and the neurophysiological and cognitive processes underpinning its control may change.” Gallego et al. continue that while some changes can be made, the need for longer-term studies is warranted to better understand the attention demanding phases involved with these breathing changes.

Although the diaphragm is one of the primary organs responsible for respiration, it is believed by some yogics to be under functioning in many people (Sovik, 2000). Thus, there is often emphasis placed upon diaphragmatic breathing, rather than the use of the overactive chest muscles. Anatomically the diaphragm sits beneath the lungs and is above the organs of the abdomen. It is the separation between cavities of the torso (the upper or thoracic and the lower or abdominal). It is attached at the base of the ribs, the spine, and the sternum. As describe earlier, when the diaphragm contracts the middle fibers, which are formed in a dome shape, descend into the abdomen, causing thoracic volume to increase (and pressure to fall), thus drawing air into the lungs. The practice of proper breathing techniques is aimed at eliminating misused accessory chest muscles, with more emphasis on diaphragmatic breathing.
With diaphragmatic breathing the initial focus of attention is on the expansion of the abdomen, sometimes referred to as abdominal or belly breathing. Have a client place one hand on the abdomen above the navel to feel it being pushed outward during the inhalations. Next, the breathing focus includes the expansion of the rib cage during the inhalation. To help a student learn this, try placing the edge of the hands along side the rib cage (at the level of the sternum); correct diaphragmatic breathing will elicit a noticeable lateral expansion of the rib cage. Diaphragmatic breathing should be practiced in the supine, prone and erect positions, as these are the functional positions of daily life. Finally, the diaphragmatic breathing is integrated with physical movements, asanas, during meditation and during relaxation. Analogous to the seasoned cyclist, who is able to maintain balance effortlessly while cycling, the trained practitioner in diaphragmatic breathing can focus attention on activities of daily life while naturally doing diaphragmatic breathing. To summarize, Sovik suggests the characteristics of optimal breathing (at rest) are that it is diaphragmatic, nasal (inhalation and exhalation), smooth, deep, even, quiet and free of pauses.

Answers to Some Common Questions on Breathing
The following are some answers to common questions about breathing adapted from Repich (2002).
1) How do you take a deep breath?
Although many people feel a deep breath comes solely from expansion of the chest, chest breathing (in of itself) is not the best way to take a deep breath. To get a full deep breath, learn how to breathe from the diaphragm while simultaneously expanding the chest.
2) What happens when you feel breathless?
Breathlessness is often a response of your flight or fight hormone and nervous system triggering the neck and chest muscles to tighten. This makes breathing labored and gives a person that breathless feeling.
3) What is hyperventilation syndrome?
Hyperventilation syndrome is also known as overbreathing. Breathing too frequently causes this phenomenon. Although it feels like a lack of oxygen, this is not the case at all. The overbreathing causes the body to lose considerable carbon dioxide. This loss of carbon dioxide triggers symptoms such as gasping, trembling, choking and the feeling of being smothered. Regrettably, overbreathing often perpetuates more overbreathing, lowering carbon dioxide levels more, and thus become a nasty sequence. Repich (2002) notes that this hyperventilation syndrome is common in 10% of the population. Fortunately, slow, deep breathing readily alleviates it. The deliberate, even deep breaths helps to transition the person to a preferable diaphragmatic breathing pattern.
4) When you feel short of breath, do you need to breathe faster to get more air?
Actually, just the opposite. If you breathe fast, you may start to over breathe and lower your carbon dioxide levels. Once again, slow deep diaphragmatic breathing is recommended.
5) How do you know if you are hyperventilating?
Often times a person does not realize when he/she is hyperventilating. Usually more focus is centered on the anxiety-provoking situation causing the rapid breathing. With hyperventilation there is much more rapid chest breathing, and thus the chest and shoulders will visibly move much more. As well, if you take about 15-17 breaths per minute or more (in a non-exercise situation) then this could be a more quantifiable measure of probable hyperventilating.

Final Thoughts
The research is very clear that breathing exercises (e.g. pranayama breathing) can enhance parasympathetic (inhibit neural responses) tone, decrease sympathetic (excitatory) nervous activity, improve respiratory and cardiovascular function, decrease the effects of stress, and improve physical and mental health (Pal, Velkumary, and Madanmohan, 2004). Health and fitness professionals can utilize this knowledge and regularly incorporate proper slow breathing exercises with their students and clients in their classes and training sessions.

Side Bar 1. What is Asthma? And Five Common Myths Associated with it?
The word "asthma" is derived from the Greek word meaning "to puff or pant.” Typical symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and a persistent cough. Asthma attacks develop from an involuntary response to a trigger, such as house dust, pollen, tobacco, smoke, furnace air, and animal fur.
Asthma provokes an inflammatory response in the lungs. Airway linings swell up, the smooth muscle surrounding them contracts and excess mucus is produced. Airflow is now limited, making it hard for oxygen to get through to the alveoli and into the bloodstream. The severity of an asthma attack is determined by how restricted the airways become. When an asthmatic's airways become chronically inflamed it takes only a slight trigger to cause a major reaction in the airways. Oxygen levels can become low and even life threatening. Below are some of the common myths about asthma.
Myth 1) Asthma is a mental disease
Because asthma sufferers often have attacks when facing emotional stress, some people have identified it as a psychosomatic condition. Asthma is a real physiological condition. However, emotional stimuli can act as an asthma trigger, worsening an asthma flare up.
Myth 2) Asthma is not a serious health condition
Quite the contrary! Asthma attacks may last several minutes or go on for hours. With extended asthma agitation one’s health is increasingly threatened. Indeed, if an airway obstruction becomes severe, the sufferer may experience respiratory failure, leading to fainting and possible death.
Myth 3) Children will grow out of asthma as they mature to adulthood
The majority of asthma sufferers will have it for life, although some people do appear to grow out of it.
Myth 4) Asthmatics shouldn’t exercise
Asthmatics can and should exercise. Importantly they should find the types of exercise they feel most comfortable with as well as the best place and time to do the exercise.
Myth 5) Not that many people are affected by asthma
According to National Center for Health Statistics (2002), 20 million people suffer from asthma in the U.S. Asthma can be life threatening as it took the lives of approximately 4,261 deaths in 2002. Researchers are unclear if this is due to improper preventative care, chronic overuse of asthma medications, or a combination of both factors.

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Guz, A. (1997). Brain, breathing and breathlessness. Respiration Physiology. 109, 197-204.

Jerath, R., Edry J.W, Barnes, V.A., and Jerath, V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypothesis, 67, 566-571.

National Center for Health Statistics. (2002). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pal, G.K. Velkumary, S. and Madanmohan. (2004). Effect of short-term practice of breathing exercises on autonomic functions in normal human volunteers. Indian Journal of Medical Research, 120, 115-121.

Repich, D. (2002). Overcoming concerns about breathing. National Institute of Anxiety and Stress, Inc.

Ritz, T. and Roth, W.T. (2003). Behavioral intervention in asthma. Behavior Modification. 27 (5), 710-730.

Sovik, R. (2000). The science of breathing – The yogic view. Progress in Brain Research, 122 (Chapter 34), 491-505.

Willmore, J. and Costill, D. (2004). Physiology of Sport and Exercise (3rd Edition). Champaign: Human Kinetics.

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