Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pranayama--BREAD for Stressful Days

Stress. Now that's something we can do without. Or can we? Most of the time stress is unwanted, unhealthy, sometimes even unnecessary. Remember our New Year's resolutions? How many of us have vowed to have less stress and more tranquility, peace of mind, etc? I'd like to share with you an article on how we can ease our stressful days using the BREAD technique, an article I wrote years ago for a South Florida holistic magazine. I believe that the described techniques on dealing with stress are timeless. Hence the reason I decided to share them with you in this blog post.

Hope you enjoy the read. As always, thanks for visiting,

Alina Oswald

waterfall reflections among green vegetation at the Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Big Island of Hawaii. Photo by Alina Oswald.
Rainbow Falls, Hawaii Island: "Green Waterfall Reflections" Photo Copyright 2010 by Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Stress is an even more serious issue for cardiac patients and people suffering from high blood pressure. The high-level stress and excitement of the holidays, combined with a less healthy diet, can increase the risk of complications.
How can we handle stress, in general, and holidays’ stress, in particular? There is a pure medical technique that addresses this.
Dr. Mala Cunningham, Ph.D., founder of the Cardiac Yoga program and counseling psychologist in a private practice in Charlottesville, VA, advises to take a deep breath when under stress. Pranayama may, indeed, help lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Proper breathing is part of the “BREAD” concept Dr. Cunningham uses for her patients—an acronym for Breathing, Relaxation, Exercise/Yoga, Attitude, and Diet.
During the Cardiac Yoga program, patients learn deep relaxation and breathing techniques, healing imagery, and gentle yoga. “Cardiac Yoga is a holistic program designed for heart patients dealing with risk factors and it also includes family members,” Dr. Cunningham says, explaining the techniques. The program supports individuals throughout their “heart healthy program,” and further. Cardiac Yoga techniques are also recommended for people living with stress on an everyday basis or for those who pass through a stressful time in their lives.
“Breathing is vital,” Dr. Cunningham explains. It calms down the sympathetic nervous system and kicks in the relaxation. Stress arouses the sympathetic nervous system, which, in turn, sends alert messages to the brain. The body is flooded with responses, “as if chased by a bear.” We start to breathe fast and shallow. Our blood pressure increases. We perspire and become tensed. This takes its toll on everybody—especially on someone with heart disease.
Deep breathing expands the lungs and calms down the sympathetic nerves that pass through that area. This signals the brain to relax. This results in decreased muscle tension, blood pressure, and respiration.
Relaxation may cause the hypothalamus to respond. The effect is a decrease in sympathetic nervous system arousal. One relaxation technique recommended by Dr. Mala Cunningham is “healing imagery.” Even in stressful situations, we can fool the brain by thinking of something peaceful and relaxing. The brain cannot distinguish between thought and reality. In conclusion, it reacts to the thought as if it were real.


  1. Nice posting. Do you know about these pranayama books?

  2. Hello SF Author and thanks for posting the comment!

    Also appreciate sharing the link with us. Here it is again:

    Hope other readers will also find helpful the books listed at the above link.

    Thanks again and hope you visit soon,
    Alina Oswald