How can you become 100 percent aware

Breathe correctly: control your breath - and heal with it

We mostly breathe without thinking about it. But if we learn to consciously control the breathing, the breath can heal the body and mind

I wanted to have a telephone interview with Thomas Loew. Now I breathe into the receiver, nobody on the other end of the line is listening. I should keep breathing, Loew had said, four seconds in, seven seconds off. He just has to hand something over to the internal mail.

Before we spoke, Loew asked me to download an app to my cell phone to do a stress check. In his laboratory at the University of Regensburg, the professor of psychotherapy uses equipment that costs tens of thousands of euros to investigate what the breath can do. A smartphone is also sufficient for remote diagnosis.

The app measures minimal fluctuations in my heartbeat with a finger placed on the photo lens. The "heart rate variability" reveals how stressed I am. The app shows zero percent for deeply relaxed people. 100 percent is the maximum - so full stress.

I didn't feel stressed. Even so, the first test showed 58 percent. The mobile phone display reported: “You are in the alarm state.” The only thing missing was a red light flashing.

So keep breathing, stressed slowly.

Breath much more than a stress killer?

Thomas Loew calls this "decelerated breathing". In everyday life, people breathe in and out ten to twenty times per minute. According to Loew's method - four seconds on, seven seconds off - it's about six times. He uses a reflex of the body. He is led to believe that he is in a relaxed situation similar to deep sleep - and he believes it.

When Loew returned from the post office a few minutes later and I put my finger on the photo lens again, my stress level had dropped to 21 percent.

This short exercise on the phone is not really surprising. After all, when you are hectic, angry and stage fright, Volkes Mund recommends: take a deep breath. People intuitively know that calm breathing calms the mind and body. You have been using this for a long time. In the rhythmic prayer of the rosary, in the repetition of a mantra in Hinduism, in the singing of a lullaby.

Thomas Loew points out that slowed breathing can have a positive effect on high blood pressure and panic attacks. It should also make life easier for patients with migraines, lung diseases or asthma. Follow-up and long-term studies are still largely missing. But the results provide evidence that breath is much more than a stress killer.

The whole breath journey

Researcher Thomas Loew and trainer Marie-Luise Waubert de Puiseau are just two stops on GEO editor Diana Laarz's journey. In order to get to the bottom of her breath, she met people all over Germany who watch him very closely. You can purchase the detailed story as an eBook for 0.99 euros.

The breath is a companion in life. From the first cry in the delivery room to the last breath, it marks the beginning and end of life. We can survive for some time without food, water, and light - but only a few minutes without air.

That is probably why people were fascinated by breathing early on. Egyptian grave inscriptions praise the "healing art with the breath", which is superior to those with "the knife" or with "sap". Breathing has been one of the pillars of yoga that originated in India for 3000 years. The Buddha said, "When you are scattered, learn to pay attention to your breath."

Today doctors and therapists take up the knowledge of the old masters again. Step by step they will unlock the secrets of breathing. One thing is certain for her: the power of the breath has been underestimated for too long. He heals the body and mind.

I breathe out and say a long S.

Marie-Luise Waubert de Puiseau almost became a doctor, but instead became an actress and musician. At the moment she is training other people's breath. It loosens the cramped chest breath, drives the flaccid abdominal breath on. At Waubert de Puiseau I have my first lesson in swinging.

We face each other. The teacher stands in step position, I with both feet parallel. She grabs my hands, begs me to commute. Breathe in when I let myself fall back, breathe out when I stagger towards her. Marie-Luise Waubert de Puiseau is my support. She has a lot more power than you can tell. A lady of 60 years.

Breathe properly - this is how it works!

We breathe non-stop, for a lifetime - and often wrong. It is easy to learn how to breathe properly

Full breathing is the ideal form of breathing in which our body can absorb the optimal amount of oxygen. This way of breathing can prevent headaches, tiredness or poor concentration, for example. Full breathing consists of three different types of breath: chest, flank and abdominal breathing. These three building blocks for healthy breathing are easy to train:

Sit up straight on a chair and breathe in and out calmly. Now put one hand on your chest. Pay attention to the rise and fall of the rib cage. It is important that you breathe into your lower chest, which means that you should not pull it straight up or even use your shoulders to help you.

Now place your hand on your stomach. For most people, it doesn't move while breathing - but it should, and in the right direction: outward when inhaling, inward when exhaling. So consciously breathe in against your hand when you inhale.

Finally, place your hands on the left and right on the flanksso that you can still feel the lower ribs. Now breathe in against your hands again and feel the ribs slide outwards. This ensures that the lungs expand laterally and can absorb more oxygen.

Repeat the exercise until the entire torso with chest, stomach and flanks moves with each breath. Take the time in your everyday life to check whether you are really breathing with your full breath.

I swing. Sometimes with your arms wide open, sometimes with your arms close to your body. I breathe out and say a long S. “Breathe in, breathe out, pause.” The office gets bigger and bigger with the minutes. When Waubert de Puiseau lets go of me and I no longer sway, it is as if something kept swaying in me.

Marie-Luise Waubert de Puiseau is director of studies at the Schlaffhorst-Andersen school in Bad Nenndorf, Lower Saxony. White benches under an age-bent apple tree in the courtyard, muffled choir voices in the hallways. An idyll. State-certified breathing, speaking and voice teachers have been trained here since 1984.

Just as elementary school students learn the multiplication tables, so the students in Bad Nenndorf learn to swing. In the first semester, the teachers swing the students every day. Later the students swing among each other.

Breathing, voice and movement are intertwined

It was invented by the founders of this method, Clara Schlaffhorst and Hedwig Andersen. Schlaffhorst, singer with a weakening voice, and Andersen, pianist with weakening lungs, received the diagnosis from a doctor in Königsberg in 1895: "Ladies, you breathe wrongly!" That was the beginning of two lifelong passions.

In the turbulence between the two world wars, Schlaffhorst and Andersen developed their therapy concept. The key point: breathing, voice and movement are three cogwheels that intermesh. If you speak clearly, you breathe more rhythmically. Those who breathe properly relax their muscles. Those who are relaxed have more volume in their voice.

The exercises that the two women devised sound very simple. The effect, however, was surprising. Schlaffhorst and Andersen frankly admitted their amazement in their work “Breathing and Voice”, published in 1928: “We experienced () an upheaval in all areas; first health, physically. () The ability to concentrate, memory, courage to face life, self-confidence, even productivity developed. "

Breath as a connection between consciousness and unconsciousness

Breath, an all-rounder? Scientists have come much closer to solving this puzzle over the past 100 years. They identified the breath as the connection between human consciousness and the unconscious.

Because most of the time people don't think about breathing, they just do it. Breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, as is the heartbeat and digestion. Like a seismograph, the nervous system registers movements and feelings and adjusts breathing depending on energy requirements. With physical exertion or fear, breathing accelerates. It can fail when a fright occurs. It slows down when we relax or sleep.

Language has created innumerable images for these contexts. It takes your breath away with shock, something is breathtakingly beautiful, someone has no time to breathe or just stamina.

What distinguishes the breath from all other vegetative functions: People can consciously influence it. We cannot command the heart to beat slower. We cannot ask the stomach to stop digesting. But we can choose to breathe slower or faster. The breath thus builds a bridge because it arbitrarily influences what otherwise happens involuntarily.

It is a unique process in the human body.

This explains the effect of slowed breathing by Thomas Loew, who asked me on the phone to breathe more slowly. Breath and heart function are closely related. If the heart beats quickly, breathing involuntarily accelerates. Conversely: if you breathe slowly, your pulse and blood pressure drop. A person cannot achieve this through his will alone. If he uses his breath as a bridge, he can do it.

This is an abridged version of the GEO cover story "Atmen" - you can order the magazine here.