I've been told by meditation instructors and naturopathic doctors that inhalation is controlled by sympathetic innervation, and exhalation is parasympathetic. Based in this, we are taught to change our meditation breathing based on whether we desire to emphasize activation or calming. The idea is that by extending the inhale and shortening the exhale, you increase your sympathetic activity. More often the idea of extending the exhale to double or more the length of the inhale is used, to help us release the stresses of modern life.
My question is this: It seems reasonable to me and I do believe that the autonomic innervation of breathing is as they say. My issue comes with the fact that by intentionally altering our breathing pattern, we are no longer breathing autonomically, or automatically. We have shifted over to another pathway for governing breathing, that starts at the frontal cortex with our will, instead of in the medullary (brainstem) breathing center. Are these new pathways also sympa/parasympathetic? Or not?
Based on my own experience (I breathe a lot) I would say that exhalation is only parasympathetic when you release and let the body do it autonomically. When I intentionally extend my exhale it no longer feels as relaxing to me. Anybody have more knowledge or experience with this???
(x-posted a bit)