CSF Flow and Breathing – Cerebrospinal Fluid

Cerebrospinal fluid plays a vital role in our overall health and well-being. CSF flow can be regulated voluntarily to ensure a healthy brain system. One of these ways is through conscious breathing techniques like Pranayama.

CSF flow

What Is Cerebrospinal Fluid?

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a clear liquid produced by specialised cells in the brain. The brain produces about 500mL of CSF per day (25mL per hour), but there is only about 125-150mL of CSF in your body at any given time. This is because it is reabsorbed by the body continuously.

Cerebrospinal fluid is found in the membrane surrounding the brain, as well as in the cavities inside your brain and spinal cord (the ventricular system). Cerebrospinal fluid serves multiple purposes:

  • Buoyancy – the average brain weighs roughly 1.5kG, but the net weight suspended in CSF is around 50G. This helps the brain maintain its density without damaging itself by its own weight.
  • Protection – Cerebrospinal fluid is a shock absorber for the brain. It protects the brain tissue from damage if it is hit.
  • Homeostasis – The dynamic balance of internal chemical and physical systems is regulated by CSF. It allows substances to pass between brain cells and the cells that release hormones into the blood (neuroendocrine cells). If homeostasis is disturbed, it can cause problems like dizziness or even damage to the nervous system.
  • Clearing waste – Cerebrospinal fluid plays a vital role in the brain’s lymphatic system by removing waste products from the brain. The waste is diffused into CSF, moved from the brain, and reabsorbed (as CSF) by the bloodstream.

How Does CSF Flow Through The Spinal Cord?

Breathing moves CSF through the body thanks to the pressure in the veins of our chest. These veins on the chest vertebrae column (the vertebrae at the same level as your ribs) transmit pressure upwards, to the brain.

When you breathe, the chest rises and falls. This creates a change in pressure that flows upwards to the CSF around the brain. When you breathe in, chest pressure decreases and CSF flows down the spine. When you breathe out, chest pressure increases and CSF flows up the spine into the head.

This means breathing creates a rhythmic CSF flow up and down the spinal cord.

Studies have shown that the deeper or shallower we breathe, directly influences the movement of CSF through the brain. Deeper breathing encourages CSF further up into the brain. There has also been research to show that holding your breath increases CSF flow.

CSF and Health

The movement of CSF is really important to our health. CSF flow decreases with age, which means it can collect impurities and slowly create a toxic environment. This results in impaired brain function like fatigue, depression, cognitive decline, and is possibly linked with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The research on CSF flow and breathing supports the reported benefits of Pranayama.

What’s more, the activation of the sympathetic nervous system is linked to reduced CSF flow, while parasympathetic activation is associated with increased CSF flow. This goes to show just how effective SOMA breathing techniques are for brain health.

Optimise CSF Flow for Brain Health

This is all about enhancing your body’s natural functions and supporting the health of your brain and body, making it a vital part of achieving balance and wellness. Here are some of the most effective ways to achieve this flow of clean, healthy CSF fluid.

  • Yoga – Yoga increases relaxation through conscious stretching, breathing, and mindfulness, promoting CSF circulation.
  • Good posture – Correct posture results in optimal alignment of the head and spine, ensuring a proper CSF flow through the system.
  • Meditation – Relaxing and focussing on the breath creates a rhythmic CSF flow through the body.
  • Exercise – Exercise gets the lymphatic systems pumping, blood circulation going, and CSF flow increases and is more effective.