Science

Three factors profoundly affect the quality of our breathing

Our breath pattern

How we use our diaphragm

Our posture

 Our breath pattern

3_croppedA breath pattern goes far beyond what can be captured by a simple summary statistic such as respiration rate. It is defined by how we breathe over time, with parameters such as inhalation time, depth, retention, smoothness, exhalation time, and time between breaths. Recent studies have found that the patterns we employ, both consciously and unconsciously, can make a serious difference. For example, this research analyzed a range of studies which found that yogic breathing, when properly practiced, has a significant positive impact on conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and stress related illnesses including post traumatic stress disorder. In this specific example, a practice called Sudarshan Kriya Yoga was evaluated, which is composed of at least four distinct breathing techniques, effectively translating into four different breath patterns. As another example, this study considered the effects of rhythmic breathing and found positive effects on immune function. The lesson here is that valuable health data hides within our breath pattern, not just in averaged measures like respiration rate, and that we can choose to use and practice patterns which can favorably affect our health.

 

Diaphragmatic vs. chest breathing

4_croppedThe diaphragm is the dome-shaped sheet of muscle under the lungs that serves as the main muscle of respiration. Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, is an efficient, natural, and healthy form of breathing where the breather uses more of their entire lung capacity compared to chest breathing. During diaphragmatic breathing, the breather more fully contracts their diaphragm to enlarge the volume of the thoracic cavity to draw air more fully into the lungs, causing the abdomen to expand and belly to rise during inhalation. Chest breathing on the other hand, typically involves shallow breaths taken from the upper lobes of the lungs, primarily and unnaturally using chest muscles to inflate the lungs, with minimal diaphragm and belly movement. Diaphragmatic breathing delivers a significantly larger amount of oxygen to the bloodstream, since the lower lobes of the lungs—which contain a richer supply of blood vessels compared to the upper—receive more air. Stress and chest breathing seem to go hand in hand, and not surprisingly, there is an epidemic of chest breathing in our modern world as discussed here. A number of recent studies have found concrete evidence of health benefits for diaphragmatic breathing (see Study1, Study2).

Posture

2_croppedA strong connection between posture and breath has been emphasized by numerous traditions for thousands of years, including Yoga Pranayama. The basic idea is that good posture facilitates good breathing. This idea is now supported by a number of recent studies and research. For example, this research paper found a significant relationship between a particular seated posture and the quality of pulmonary function. These researchers found that in slumped sitting, spirometric measurements of forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume, and peak expiratory flow were all significantly decreased compared to a normal upright seated posture. One explanation is that posture affects the distribution of weight of visceral organs on the diaphragm, which affects its mobility when breathing. Slumped sitting in particular can have an impeding effect on diaphragm mobility. This research found that posture does in fact directly affect diaphragmatic movement.

Prana

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Our platform evaluates breath patterns, takes into account the effects of posture on breathing, and differentiates between diaphragmatic and chest breathing, three critical components of assessing the true quality of breathing, previously unaddressed by systems such as spirometers or pulse oximeters. Our algorithms are able to disentangle breath from posture, as well as chest from diaphragmatic breathing, utilizing just one small sensor case worn near the belly or waist area. With a 204 page patent covering numerous breakthroughs, Prana offers many new features unavailable in today’s activity trackers.

Clinical and Game Modes

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For data geeks and health practitioners, Prana Clinical Mode offers full data analytics for each breath, tracking 10 distinct stats plus posture across all phases of respiration. In this example, a breath exercise from Yoga Pranayama is selected, called Sama Vritti, emphasizing equal inhalation and exhalation times, with a key benefit being improved focus/clarity. A user’s posture-corrected breathing is shown being scored in real time with respect to this exercise, along with integrated posture assessment. Diaphragmatic breathing is being tracked.

 

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Prana Clinical Mode: Breath exercise selected is Vagus nerve: parasympathetic response, emphasizing longer exhalations than inhalations. Key benefits are stress reduction and calmness, attenuating fight or flight mode.

 

 

Video of Prana’s Clinical mode in action.

 

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Prana Game Mode offers a simplified user friendly way to train breath, hiding most of the details of our Clinical Mode. This example shows our Vagus nerve parasympathetic response exercise translated into an intuitive game. The user inhales, exhales, and holds breath to follow the path of the flowers, while avoiding the obstacles. Key benefits for this particular pattern are calmness and stress reduction, inhibiting the body’s fight or flight mode.

 

Video of Prana’s game mode: Our active training offers a great new gamified intervention for stress, panic attacks, and anxiety. Our library provides an extensive set of medically studied breath patterns, like the 4-7-8 pattern, shown to reduce stress and curb acute anxiety episodes. By directly monitoring your real-time inhalations, exhalations, and posture, Prana gives you the feedback you need to be sure you are breathing and sitting in the optimum way to get the most benefit out of your breathing.

 

 

Prana helps to rapidly activate diaphragmatic breathing, the most efficient and natural way to breathe. For most people today, stress has caused the source of breathing to shift upwards, with chest or accessory muscles being used to shallowly inflate the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing gives us access to more of our full lung capacity. It is helpful to everyone, and especially those suffering from COPD who have compromised diaphragm function. This video shows a COPD patient who was able to immediately activate his diaphragm (using an earlier belt version of Prana, though our pod version functions in the same way). Check out our published 204 page patent application covering many new advances.