Catching Your Breath - Self Healing, Simple & Profound By Ric Chamberlin, LMT
Breathing is something most of us take for granted. It's our first act upon entering this world and we do it without having to think about it there after. We have to feed ourselves and find water but we seldom have to go looking for air (unless, perhaps, we happen to be under water). We can go for weeks without food and days without water but we can't survive more than a few short minutes without air. Breath provides us our source of oxygen, which is required by our cells and is used to produce energy for the body to use.
Many ancient practices from the East place special focus on breathing such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Yoga. The west has started to put more emphasis on breathing. Relaxation, meditation, and grounding practices often call on us to focus on our breath or alter it. Natural childbirth utilizes regulated breathing to manage pain and anxiety. My sister the music teacher has been telling people for years about the importance of breathing deeper and using all of our lungs.
Most people have already heard somewhere that most of us use approximately one-fourth of our lung capacity and have an idea that they should be breathing more deeply. Few people realize that focusing on and deepening our breath can be one of the most powerful and most easily assessable self-healing practices we can do.
The role of breathing goes beyond the physical. It's effect on our mind, emotions, and spirit can be found in examining the word inspiration, which is the medical term for drawing air into the lungs. Inspiration is also a word that means:
A creative idea.
Stimulation of the mind or emotions.
Our breathing rate and patterns change along with physical conditions or when our emotions change. When we start exercising or when we experience emotions like anger, fear, sadness, and joy our breathing automatically changes to meet demands. By focusing on our breath and changing it you can induce relaxation in the body and alter your emotions.
So what happens when we focus on our breath and deepen it?
A state of relaxation is triggered. This causes capillaries to dilate which allows a greater volume of oxygen, via the blood, to reach tissues where it is most needed.
The Autonomic Nervous System moves towards a state of balance.
Neuropeptides are released in the brain that can have a positive effect on pain, memory, feelings of pleasure, regulation of body temperature and hormones, as well as mental illnesses.
Alpha waves are enhanced in the brain, creating a sense of well-being.
The action of the ribs expanding and contracting helps pump lymphatic fluid which carries toxins out of the body as well is helping circulate immune cells.
The expanding diaphragm presses down on the organs below, massaging them.
Other benefits include:
A sense of empowerment. We are doing something to take care of ourselves rather then feeling helpless or just depending on others.
Greater self-awareness. Breath work can bring us back to ourselves and to our bodies when we have been focusing on external things, such as work. When we disconnect from ourselves, stress and patterns of tension set in. When we are tuned into our bodies our self-healing mechanisms can engage.
Breath work can be done anywhere, just about anytime. If you sitting at your desk, standing in the checkout line, or driving your car you can do breath work. No one even needs to know.
Basic breath practice Breath work can be done sitting, standing, or lying down. The important thing is to adjust your posture so your chest and abdomen have space to move and expand. Breathe in slowly through the nose. Allow the air to fill the lower lungs first which causes the abdomen to expand. Another way to think about is to visualize breathing all the way down into the abdomen. Don't rush the breath. Breathe slowly and naturally. When the lungs feel full yet still comfortable stop inhaling, hold your breath for a fraction of a second, then exhale through the nose, again slowly and naturally. If you are more comfortable breathing through your mouth do that. Just keep it slow, deep, comfortable, and relaxed.
Caution Not all wellness activities are right for all individuals. Consult your healthcare practitioner before making changes to you wellness routines. If you feel faint or dizzy, a sense of anxiety or any other adverse results from doing the breathing practices discontinue and consult your doctor.
How can you utilize breath work? 1. Do the basic breath practice for 10 repetitions as a way to improve relaxation and general wellness.
2. Take three or four breaths when you need to feel more grounded.
3. Take one breath when you think about it. Rather than worry that it is not enough, allow yourself to know that this one breath can help you now.
4. When you breathe in visualize the breath coming in through your nose, moving down to the abdomen, swirling around and when you are ready to exhale visualize the breath moving out your nose. Visualizing the breath is a form of meditation and is a common "mindfulness" practice.
5. To release anxiety and stress take a breath and exhale with a sigh, either a gentle sigh or a forceful one, whatever feels right. When I take a blood pressure reading, then do four breaths with a sigh, and take another reading my systolic is about 10 points lower, the diastolic 5 points lower. I started to realize this is something many of us do instinctively. When we are stressed we take a deep breath and sigh. Often times when we are angry we are told to "take a deep breath".
6. For pain issues breathe right into the area that hurts. Visualize the breath in through your nose and moving to the area in pain. You can allow the breath firmly compress the area in question or it can gently caress it or brush by, whatever feels more comfortable. You can also visualize the inhaled breath coming in through the top of your head. You could visualize exhaling down the legs and out the feet. This is helpful when working with the spine or an area in the legs. You can even visualize the inhaled breath coming in through the feet. This can improve your sense of grounding. There is no right or wrong way. Experiment and find what works best for you at any given time.
7. Take one or more breathes and while exhaling mentally say “I am relaxed”. Alternately you can use just about any affirmation that seems appropriate.
The next time you are feeling stress or anxiety, or just feel disconnected from yourself try 10, slow, deep breaths is in #1 above. This will take approximately two minutes. Notice how you feel. You will likely feel a great deal of change. Make this practice a part of your daily life and notice the changes to your overall wellness.
Feel your well-being improve one breath at a time.
Ric Chamberlin Registered Practitioner - Society of Ortho-Bionomy International ® Licensed Massage Therapist - State of Nebraska The Healing Connection 900 S 74th Plaza, Suite 116, Omaha, NE 68114 402 850 0752