Intentional, slow and deep breathing has many therapuetic effects on the body. The practice of deep breathing has its roots in many cultures and goes by many names including: Pranayama, Resonant breathing, diaphragmatic breathing or just deep breathing. Studies have shown deep breathing to be effective at reducing stress, hypertension, improving vagal activity and reducing the sympathetic nervous system reaction, improving sleep and reducing sleep apnea and snoring, improving airflow in people with asthma and other pulmonary diseases, reducing the perception of pain and allowing access to deeper levels of consciousness. Oxygen levels in the blood are maintained more efficiently with longer breaths.
Most of us can testify to the feeling of excitement at hearing our favourite piece or the outpouring of emotion when a songs content reflects our own story. Music can make us feel sad, happy, and most of the other feelings in between. Music is capable of resonating on an emotional level and uncover feelings we may have hidden, ignored or have forgotten about. Music has the power to release emotions. Music truly can soothe the savage beast.
Music has the ability to "hold" or contatin the listener on a temporal journey. Music's inate qualities of repetition, cycles and predictableness support the listeners attention and create a safe space that can keep the listener comfortable within its sonic boundaries. Creating a safe and interesting space holds the listener for longer periods of time and reduces external distractions.
When two cycles occilate in nature the cycles will eventually sychronise to conserve energy. The matching of rhythms in nature creates harmoniuos environments that are more cohesive and sustainable. An example of entrainment is circadian rhythms that follow the light cycle of the planet. Humans are the only species that can meaningfully entrain with music in a biomusicological way by being able to dance. Entrainment of breathing takes a slower cycle of up to 16 seconds and is easy to follow with a simple melody within the music.
Simply by listening to music we can divert neural activity away from the nerves that are recieving pain. The brain is also capable of releasing endorphins when we engage with music. Music can create a predictable feedback loop in which we are rewarded for anticipating the next beat. By stimulating other areas of the brain with music our conscious is drawn away from the neural pathways that are involved with pain perception.
Buddhism advocates for an awareness of the nature of mind through meditation and mindfulness references letting our thoughts come and go without attachment. Focussing on our breathing allows us to be present to ourselves and lets our unconscious thoughts flow freely. Let your thoughts flow and be aware of them, but make sure to bring your focus back to your breathing if you find your getting get too distracted by your thoughts. Don’t attach yourself to thoughts, but rather see them for what they are, how they manifest, develop, disappear and reappear. Let your mind reveal a story of pictures and feelings but don’t let the story interrupt your focus on your breathing. You may find after a while that you do not have to consciously follow the music to keep the slow rate of breathing going. Keep conscious of your breathing and let your unconscious play the movie.
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