An important notion to introduce is the Pulmonary Ventilation (VE), it is defined as the amount of air breathed per breath. VE = Breath rate (RR) X Tidal Volume (TV), VE is measured in liter of air per minute TV = amount of air breathed per breath Normal TV = 500ml (1/2 liter) VE = 6 l/min (at rest) Increasing either (or both) TV or (and) RR can increase VE (as with exercise)
Max VE can be increased 20-25 fold = 120-150 l/m
How does our body know how much breathing it needs to do? What factors control the rate and depth of ventilation?
Control lies within an area of the medulla called the RCC = Respiratory Control Center
The RCC acts as a coordinating area which receives information (both centrally and peripherally) and then sends signals to the respiratory muscles to control breathing. (VE) It receives chemical, neural, mechanical and thermal information. The respiratory muscles receive information only from the RCC.
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Peripheral Receptors include:
- Chemo-receptors (Humoral) PO2, PCO2, pH found in the arteries, and lungs (alveoli).
- Stretch/Proprioceptive/Mechano-receptors (neural) found in the lungs and muscles.
Central Receptors include:
Temperature & Chemical (blood) in the RCC. Motor cortex input (Higher brain activity), signals to the muscles pass through the RCC first.
We can say that it is normally not possible to take complete control of your breathing.
Breathing is an involuntary action under control of the Medulla Oblongata in the lower part of the brain. Sensory neurons in this region control motors neurons in the spinal cord. A simple example is how long you can hold your breath. Although you can consciously controlled breathing to a limited extent- such as holding your breath - it cannot be consciously suppressed. The need to supply oxygen to our cells and remove carbon dioxide is a powerful one.
Finally you can only hold your breath until you lose consciousness - then the brain takes control and normal breathing resumes.
Respiratory system is closely related to other vital functions of the body, as an example respiratory and circulatory systems have closely related jobs. The work of these two systems is sometimes referred to together as the cardiorespiratory system. But you have also all kinds of signals form RCC which can influence breathing such as external temperature.
(2) Breathing during Zhang zhuang
In ZZ your breathing should be mainly be comfortable and natural.
First you should be able to appreciate the results of your practice, without bothering how you are breathing, curative effects are not directly related to the consciously form of breathing you could choose. In a word do not pursuit consciously the control of your breathing or you may fall into unpleasant side effects. In ZZ both hands and both elbows are requested to change from their normal dropping posture: dropping alongside the body, into a lifting posture, while maintaining always relaxed muscles of shoulders, back and upper thorax, and keep the posture. Under these postural conditions intercostal muscles (muscles between ribs) are released from their previous tension, allowing more amplitude in the breathing movement of your ribs: this time you have more air entering the base of the lungs for abdominal breathing.
Now we understand that ZZ allows you naturally to reach abdominal and intercostal breathing, and I repeat, without controlling consciously your way of breathing. A further step in ZZ will come with an effective relaxation of the shoulders and upper part of the body (especially collar-bone area) you reach now the complete breathing as described previously. Let's revise the situation: breathing is automatically set up and adjust through RCC to answer to the needs of internal organs as well as demands of physical efforts o
Always better whenever possible (deviated septum and small nostrils may make it impractical but still nose breathing 24 hours a day is extremely important for those who desire the longest and most healthy life.
Here are 10 reasons why it is so important to keep using nose breathing especially during ZZ exercise.
1. The lungs are a primary control of our energy level. They extract oxygen from the air we breathe primarily on the exhale. Because the nostrils are smaller then the mouth, air exhaled through the nose creates back pressure when one exhales. It slows the air escape so the lungs have more time to extract oxygen from them. When there is proper oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, the blood will maintain a balanced pH. If carbon dioxide is lost too quickly, as in mouth breathing, oxygen absorption is decreased.
2. Afferent stimuli from the nerves that regulate breathing are in the nasal passages. The inhaled air passing through the nasal mucosa carries the stimuli to the reflex nerves that control breathing. Mouth breathing bypasses the nasal mucosa and makes regular breathing difficult. During sleep, it predisposes one to loud snoring and irregular breathing and can lead to a serious condition called Sleep Apnea and heart conditions.
3. Also, when mouth breathing, the brain thinks carbon dioxide is being lost too quickly and sensing this, will stimulate the goblet cells to produce mucous, slow the breathing and cause constriction of blood vessels. Breathing through the nose also limits air intake and forces one to SLOW down. Proper nose breathing reduces hypertension and stress for most people. Kind of like a speed control (governor) on a car engine.
4. The nostrils and sinuses filter and warm the air going into the lungs. The mouth breather bypasses this. The sinuses produce nitric oxide (NO) which is a pollutant but harmful to bacteria in small doses. Mouth breathing also accelerates water loss increasing possible dehydration.
5. Each nostril is innervated by five cranial nerves from a different side of the brain. Each nostril functions independently and synergistically in filtering, warming, moisturizing, dehumidifying, and smelling the air.
6. Maintaining a keen sense of smell is very important for enjoying life and for safety and social acceptance. Think of all the beautiful smells we enjoy with our nose.
7. Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome, the new medical description for what most of us call snoring, is a problem for about 90 million Americans everyday. Socially unacceptable snoring occurs when other people complain about the noise. They are irritated by the snoring noise because they were unable to sleep well in the same room and in some cases the same building. Snoring is a major social problem. It can also lead to major medical problems if snoring and mouth breathing combine to cause irregular breathing during sleep.
8. What you do during waking hours carries over into sleep. Any opportunity for mouth breathing inhaling or exhaling will increase the chances of mouth breathing during sleep. Hospital studies have established that nocturnal mouth breathing is a primary cause of loud snoring. Snoring is precursor to sleep apnea and apnea a precursor to heart attacks and dying in one's sleep.
9. Nose breathing imposes approximately 50 percent more resistance to the air stream in normal individuals than does mouth breathing, resulting in 10-20 percent more O2 uptake. There must be adequate nasal resistance to maintain adequate elasticity of the lungs.
10. Breathing through the mouth with the nose obstructed usually imposes too little resistance and can lead to micro-areas of poor ventilation in the lungs (atelactasis). Many years of breathing against excessive resistance as with nasal obstruction, may cause micro areas of poor ventilation (emphysema).
(3) Effects of ZZ on breathing system
ZZ is inducing a very important change in the structure and the function of the breathing system.
First in strengthening the diaphragm, the muscles between the ribs (intercostal muscles) in their contraction and relaxation abilities, helping the chest to develop, increasing your lungs capacity so that your Pulmonary Ventilation (VE) will also increase while your RR will be slower. sign of general improvement of your respiratory system.
Generally when you are just starting ZZ training, you will experiment an increase of RR sometimes mixed with a deeper breath and a slight feeling of suffocation.
This is primarily due to the adaptation phase with the new posture imposed by ZZ: groups muscles of shoulders, back, chest, etc. can still, hardly reach a sufficient level of relaxation, your lungs capacity is also still restricted so that your VE is still not increasing and you are reaching a RR of around 20 to 30 bpm. After sufficient time of practice, you will notice progressively that your RR is decreasing down to 10 to 15 bpm. Now your lungs capacity has increased substantially, diaphragm and intercostals muscles are freely contracting/relaxing, breathing movements involve more obvious movements from the lower parts of the rib cage and more swelling from the abdomen.
To reach this improvement, here are again the preliminary postural conditions of ZZ:
- head like suspended from the top,
- eyes looking forward,
- both hands lifted,
- both elbows expanding,
- shoulders and back relaxed,
- do not apply force,
- reduce power in shoulders and arms to reduce chest pressure,
- expand your lungs,
- increase your Pulmonary Ventilation (VE).
We already explained that ZZ will not lead to suffocation avoiding the post effects of glottis enlargement and thorax internal pressure increase, but in addition ZZ helps airway smooth muscles to remain relaxed while the entire respiration tract allows more air to be exchanged with lungs, down to each alveolus for better ventilation.
Larger supply of oxygen will facilitate the process of oxidation in body's cells, expulsing harmful organisms and chemicals from them.
Here are some symptoms of possible oxygen deficiency and where ZZ can have direct effects through better oxygen supply:
• overall body weakness
• circulation problems
• poor digestion
• muscle aches and pains
• irrational behavior
• lung problems
• increased unhealthy bacteria, germs, viruses and parasites
• Finally almost any illness is created or worsened by lowered oxygen supply.
II.5.3 Core concept of heart rate (or pulse rate)
Pulse is an alternate expansion and contraction of artery walls as heart action varies blood volume within the arteries. Artery walls are elastic. Hence they become distended by increased blood volume during systole, or contraction of the heart. During diastole, or relaxation of the heart, blood volume in the arteries decreases and the walls contract, propelling the blood farther along the arterial pathway. The effect is that of a pressure wave initiated by the heartbeat and traveling from the aorta, the major artery leaving the heart, along the walls of all the other arteries. It takes about a quarter of a second for this wave to travel from the aorta to the arteries in the soles of the feet. The rate of heartbeat is equivalent to the pulse rate. Usually the pulse rate is determined by counting the pulsations per minute in the radial artery at the wrist. It may also be determined at any other artery point near the surface of the body.
HR is a one of the most important indicators of overall health. Normal resting heart rate (HR)
Many factors affect normal heart rate, including your age, activity level, and the time of day. The chart below shows the normal range of a resting heart rate (pulse rate after resting 10 minutes) in beats per minute, according to age. In general, the lower your resting heart rate, the more efficient your heart is and the healthier you are.
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