#16: Breathing, Anime, and how I recover from IPL games.
If this sounds like a self help post, it might be. But it also contains some very cool science.
As this newsletter continues to be an outlet for whatever I’m into at the moment, let’s talk a bit about neurons.
While in isolation ahead of the Women’s Cricket World Cup, I binged the anime Demon Slayer. Well, not really binged. I skipped the boring episodes with the dorky scenes where suddenly the perspective changes and the characters have big faces and drops of sweat dripping down, usually in sexually charged situations (There has to be a name for this, right?).
It’s a feature of shonen anime which I have no patience for, having been introduced to anime through Attack on Titan and then Death Note, neither of which have time for frivolity.
So I skipped to the Demon Slayer battle scenes, which are really, really well animated and gripping. Now here’s the thing you need to know about Demon Slayer. It features a bunch of demon slayers, slaying demons (that part was obvious), with swords (this you probably guessed), but more importantly, with breathing. Each Demon Slayer faction has their own particular breathing style, which they use as the basis of the moves they execute with their blades.
It reminded me of my playing days, where I discovered that I could get some extra bounce on the ball just by exhaling really hard at the point of delivery.
It got me thinking about how we can and should use breath to win the battles of daily life. One of the things I’m working on this year is deepening and improving my practice of gratitude. And after watching that anime, I wondered whether I could link something intangible like gratitude to something more visceral, like breath.
So I paid a little attention to how I was breathing when I felt particularly grateful, and then thought, let me reverse that process, and breathe so that I can bring myself into a mindset of gratitude.
Now this is hardly a new technique. ‘Take a deep breath when you’re angry’ is an adage probably as old as anger itself. And as an Art Of Living teacher, my father has been going on and on about how our breath is the link between our body and mind. But besides Demon Slayer, another piece of content I consumed that really drove this home.
Radiolab is a popular science podcast, and they recently had an excellent 90- minute long episode dedicated to breath. One of the biggest insights from that episode was how our body regulates our breathing. Our heart has neurons that determine its rhythm, and those are located within the heart itself. The neurons that determine the rhythm of our lungs however, are located in our brain. So if the brain is in fight/flight state, those neurons tell the lungs to breathe faster.
The kicker though, is that those neurons are not a one-way street. Changing the rhythm of our breathing actually tells those neurons to change the state of our brain.
And so I’ve now isolated a particular breathing pattern that puts my brain in a relaxed, content and grateful state. It’s something that’s really helpful after calling a high-energy IPL game, like the game last night between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Gujarat Titans.
Usually after a game like that, my brain is so awake and alive that I find it hard to sleep. So I’ve been using this ‘gratitude breathing’ -in combination with a late night walk with my dog- to climb down from that aroused state and slip into sleep faster. There’s nothing worse feeling than waking up sore-eyed, and there’s no better medicine than a good night’s sleep.
This little breathing hack might not work next month, but for now it does. And so I thought I’d share it with you. It gave me a good excuse to start writing on this newsletter again, which I hadn’t been able to do while travelling for the Women’s Cricket World Cup. Do you want to hear stories from there?
On the writing front, I recently wrote an article about the Rovman Powell no ball, the Praveen Amre walk-in, and what I’d do to fix DRS. Have a read:
And I recently made a YouTube video about Umran Malik’s unlikely mentor:
See you soon, hopefully! And let me know what you thought of this post!