Pavlov Method of Deep Breathing

This breathing technique is based on the concept of Associative Learning invented by famous scientist Ivan Pavlov

This breathing technique is based on the concept of Associative Learning invented by famous Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) (Image credit :

This method of deep breathing is based on the technique used by  Great Russian Scientist Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) while introducing the concept of ‘conditioned reflexes’ .We will take the help of these ‘conditioned reflexes’ to make an unconscious habit of deep breathing.

First of all, let us see what are these ‘Condition reflexes’

There are many actions (process) in our body which are not in our control. They happen on their own. Like beating of heart, digestion, circulation of blood etc. Breathing is also a process which is beyond our control. ‘Conditioned reflexes’ are the tools with the help of which we can control some of these seemingly uncontrolled process.

We need to learn these ‘conditioned reflexes’ in some more detail.

Pavlov did an interesting experiment on dogs. He noted that whenever he gave food to dogs, they started salivating( the secretion of salivary glands in mouth in the anticipation of food) and their digestion process started. He noted that whenever dogs saw that food is coming, the salivation started in their mouth.

Pavlov wanted to know whether this process of salivation and digestion in dogs can be influenced by any external factor (stimuli).

So he did a little experiment. He started ringing a bell while giving food to dogs. Whenever, he gave food to dogs, he rang a bell. He repeated this process regularly for sometime. Slowly dogs become accustomed to this habit. Whenever they heard the sound of bell, they took it as the sign of food coming.

One day, at the time of food, Pavlov rang the bell. The dogs became attentive in anticipation of food. However, Pavlov didn’t gave them food. He just rang the bell. However, he noted that dogs still started salivating and their digestion process started even in the absence of food.

Now salivation is a process which is not in our control. It happens on its own whenever we saw or eat food. However, in this experiment, the sound of bell started the salivation process in dogs. What actually had happened was that the brains of dogs began to associate the two incident of ‘ringing a bell’ and ‘serving of food’ together. Since they are occurring simultaneously, the brain of dogs took the mere sound of bell as the indication for food even when no food was served.

This process in which the brain began to associate the ringing of bell with food is known as conditioning.

We will use this conditioning to make a habit of deep breathing.

Using ‘Conditioned Reflexes’ for Deep Breathing

There are many physical and mental activities which we perform almost daily. Like walking, eating, drinking, bathing, driving, cleaning our teeth, driving, reading newspapers & books, surfing the net, playing an indoor or outdoor game etc . The list is endless. The main thing is that we perform these activities almost daily. Right ?

We will use these activities as external stimuli to train our nervous system (mind) to automate the process of deep breathing.

Let us take ‘Walking’. Everyday we walk. We walk for different purposes in different places. We walk in a park in the morning, we walk to the market, we walk in our house, to the bus stand, to our boss’s room, to attend a meeting or prayer, to meet someone somewhere and in many many other circumstances of life. We may use this walking activity to learn deep breathing.

Whenever we walk, it is for a purpose. We walk in the Garden early morning basically for the purpose of good health. We walk to the market for the purpose of buying something. We walk to bus stand or Railway Station for the purpose of reaching somewhere.

We walk in our home for many purpose. We walk to our boss’s room for some official purpose, we walk to meet someone, somewhere for a purpose. We walk into the bathroom for the purpose of bath. In short almost always whenever we walk it is for a small or big purpose. Agree ?

So what you have to do is to choose any purposeful walk. Just one. It may be the walk in the morning, or walk in the office, walk to the bus stop or any other purposeful walk. Now, whenever you walk for that particular purpose, breath deeply.

I mean whenever you walk for that purpose , give proper attention to your breathing and be aware of the inhalation and exhalation process. While walking for that specific purpose, try to breath as deeply as you can.

The important thing is that breath deeply only (and always) when you walk for that particular purpose. For all other occasions of walking (and for other physical and mental activities) forget about this deep breathing and take breath in the way you  normally do. However, whenever you walk for that particular purpose, breath deeply.

Understand it with an example. Suppose you choose to breath deeply while walking to the bus stop for the purpose of catching the bus. Now whenever, you walk to the bus stop, breath deeply while walking. Give proper attention to your breathing while you walk and breath as deeply as you can. After catching the bus, restore the normal breathing and forget about this deep breathing. Repeat this process daily. Initially, it will be difficult.

Often you’ll forget about deep breathing. However, please remember that you are not required to breath deeply throughout the day. Only when you walk to the Bus-Stop for catching the bus, you have to take deep breathing. It’s not that difficult. Is it ? All of us can do it easily. It is true that initially you’ll have to make conscious efforts for breathing deeply while walking to the bus stop, but soon your mind will be conditioned for this automatically.

Just as in Pavlov’s experiments the dogs started salivating on hearing the bell, in the same way soon you will start breathing deeply automatically as you walk to the bus-stop.

Please don’t think that I am comparing you with dogs (if some of you are thinking that way) I am just trying to tell that this Pavlov experiment can be very very useful for us in controlling the unconscious process of deep breathing.

The automatic arrival of Conditioned reflex

Do you know what you will be doing while you choose to take deep breath while walking for the purpose of catching a bus? You unconsciously train your mind to start associating the ‘process of deep breathing’ with ‘walking to the bus stop’. Slowly the simultaneous process of ‘walking to catch a bus’ and ‘deep breathing’ will become automatic.

You’ll see that even when you forget to breath deeply while walking to bus stop, your mind reminds you automatically to breath deeply. In other words a ‘conditioned reflex, will be created in the form of that ‘purposeful walk to the bus stop. Whenever you take a walk to catch a bus, you’ll start breathing deeply on your own.

Now this is just one example involving a very small portion of your daily activities. Once you perfect this small deep breathing lesson, you can apply it in your other regular activities also. For example you can choose another purposeful walk. Let’s say – choose the walk in the morning or ‘an after meal walk’ in the evening. Whenever you go for this walk, breath deeply and slowly an association will be created between this walk and deep breathing.

You can try other activities also. For example you can choose eating. Whenever you eat anything, breath deeply. Give attention to your inhalation and exhalation process while eating. Slowly an association will be formed between the process of ‘eating’ and ‘deep breathing’ and you’ll start breathing deeply as soon as you start eating anything. Apply this experiment of association on other activities of your daily routines.

After a practice of two -three months, you will be able to create many association between deep breathing and your daily activities which in turn will add up to yours taking 3-4 hour of deep breathing daily. Taking such a good amount of pure oxygen than the amount you would take normally ( i.e. without breathing deeply) will give you an unbelievable jest and energy. Not only your internal metabolism will improve but your overall physical and mental efficiency will improve greatly.

This means less wear and tear of body, less exhaustion, less weakness and more vitality along with an enhanced capacity to work more.

Of all the yogic arts, deep breathing is the simplest and most efficient. It can be done anywhere, anytime with no restriction.

Friends, having learnt about ‘Deep Breathing’ the first yogic aid in meditation, let us learn about the second powerful aid in meditation: Deep Relaxation

Next hand  Deep Relaxation

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