This page is part of the Taming the Monkey Series

Last time we talked about the science behind how the mind monkey manifests in our body and brain via “fight or flight” survival mode. This time, I’d like to delve into the first letter of the BRAKES acronym and discuss how we can use our breathing to help us with taming the mind monkey both now and in the long term.

Why does this matter?

You might be thinking, “I don’t have to think about breathing, it just happens. Why do I need to do this?”

You’re right, of course. The autonomic nervous system handles breathing for us so we don’t generally need to think about it. But when we’re in survival brain, that autopilot might be keeping us on a path we don’t want to stay on. By focusing our attention, we can add slow our breathing, lower our heart rate, and increase the amount of oxygen getting to the brain. There are even studies that confirm how conscious breathing can improve immune function, high blood pressure, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and stress-related issues.

But I digress, and I don’t want to dig deeper into the science at this point. So let’s get on with the show.


Pranayama is a Sanskrit word that literally means to control (yama) the vital life force (prana). It is a foundational part of the practice of yoga, but can and should be practiced by everyone. Conscious breathing is important for helping us to break out of survival mode and allowing us to trigger critical thinking. So let’s oxygenate our blood and get to the business of taming the monkey!