Question: We can enhance the power of Primary respiration (PR) by synchronizing it with secondary respiration. How does this function? And does this connect with the discovery of Steven Porges that slow exhalation supports the parasympathetic nervous system as well as slowing down the heart rate?
Answer: There are really two questions here. The first answer is to understand that secondary respiration or diaphragmatic breathing is in direct relationship with PR. One of the therapeutic evaluation tools in biodynamic practice is to determine whether or not the potency of PR has increased by the end of the session. This is not the potency referred to by teachers of the mid-tide model in biodynamic practice. The potency or amplitude of PR is an expression of Health in the osteopathic system. So in order to generate more potency of PR, it is vital that the practitioner be able to synchronize their primary and secondary respirations. Typically when PR changes phases to its expansion cycle, there will periodically be a spontaneous full inhalation with the respiratory diaphragm. This can be coordinated in a way that the practitioner can enhance the amplitude of PR by using his or her breath especially the inhalation cycle. This requires the ability to feel that relationship between the two breaths. It takes practice and can be used in clinical practice by the practitioner, which will reflect into the clients PR and potentially enhance it and thus create more health. The bigger issue with this type of synchronization is ignition taking place within the phase change and amplification process with secondary respiration, but that is another big story for later.
Regarding the second part of the question, Porges did his early work on what is called heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is a measurement of the resilience of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) at the atrioventricular node (AV) in the right atrium of the heart. Every heart beat is different because of the constant metabolic changes in the body and the ANS must have the flexibility to adjust the heart beat accordingly or the heart can become overworked by staying the same. It turns out that breathing slowly especially at five cycles per minute can greatly enhance HRV and thus lower the heart rate if it is too high. This is called coherent breathing and there is very good research about it and its impact on not only slowing the heart but allowing the heart to open up to more subtle emotions like gratitude, equanimity, empathy, compassion and so forth.
That’s pretty good for six seconds of an inhale and six seconds of an exhale. The researchers recommend 5-20 minutes a day of coherent breathing. I find that I can do it more frequently lying in bed when I wake up in the morning or when I go to bed at night. I also practice it when I am a passenger in a car or in a plane. I have found it very beneficial in creating much more resilience in my ANS and consequently more of a felt sense of embodied wholeness. This is a practice I teach in class because it is also very subtle and coaching helps a lot.
I invite you to join me for a course I will be teaching titled: An Introduction to Biodynamic Cardiovascular Therapy: A Training for Health Practitioners. This course will take place in New York City at the New York Open Center, February 1-3, 2016. In this introductory course we will focus on applying craniosacral therapy skills to the cardiovascular system and learn new techniques to reduce systemic inflammation and reduce cortisol and stress levels.
Visit this link for details and registration: http://www.opencenter.org/events/an-introduction-to-biodynamic-cardiovascular-therapy-a-training-for-health-practitioners/ I look forward to seeing you in the Big Apple.