I have to be honest. My doctor told me for years to do breathing exercises before I actually took them seriously. I just thought it seemed like it was too simple of a fix for my very complicated health issues.
Part of me, took it as an insult, like he was saying, "Just calm down and breathe, and you'll be fine." I started to find research studies confirming intentional breathing's direct effect on the brain and body's ability to heal. Even then, I didn't take it seriously enough to do them regularly.
Excuse the Brain injury pun, but I can be a bit hard headed sometimes.
When I became pregnant last year, however, I had extra motivation. I read about how the muscles/ligaments that open the cervix during the birthing process are controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system (aka the rest and digest response.) Likewise, the muscles/ligaments that close the cervix to stall labor are directly tied to the body's sympathetic nervous system (aka fight or flight). I knew I was coming in with a disadvantage because of a history of multiple TBI’s causing a tendency for my brain to be in a fight or flight state. So I knew that I r
eally needed to train my body to get into a parasympathetic mode if I wanted to have a successful natural birth.
It wasn't until I did a mental performance session where I was hooked up to a bunch of machines that were reading my heart rate variability, skin conductance, muscle tension, etc. that I was able to see the power that simple breathing exercises had on my body's ability to go into a parasympathetic state where it could rest, digest, birth, handle stress, and ultimately heal. I literally saw a night and day difference in my body's response right there in a graph on the computer screen after only minutes.
I have since worked breathing into my daily habits, even if I just have a few minutes here and there, while sitting in a waiting room, in the car, or when feeding my baby. I've noticed not only the acute effects on how I feel in the moment, but also the huge difference they make in my overall health when done consistently.