Mother Nature provided you with the gift of healthy breathing when you came into this world. At that time and through many other times in your life, you used a thin muscle between your chest and abdomen, the diaphragm, to breathe.
This healthy breathing pattern has been interupted whenever you’ve experienced chronic stress. Stress – physical, mental-emotional and/or spiritual creates a shift in your breathing pattern. Instead of your diaphragm, the muscles of your neck and shoulders are used to move air in and out of your lungs. That’s one of the reasons that stress is so often accompanied by chronic neck and shoulder tension. The result is rapid, shallow breathing that often persists after the stressor ends – it becomes a habit! And the accompanying change in the oxygen-carbon dioxide balance in the body contributes a whole host of symptoms:
increased blood pressure
reduced motor control
lower pain threshold (increased sensation of pain)
agitation, anxiety, panic
muscle tension & spasm
heightened sensory perception
And, for women, all of these symptoms can be aggravated premenstrually, with the rising levels of progesterone in the second half of the cycle.
Any of this look familiar to you?
Retraining our breathing patterns to improve health requires regular practice. These practices require no special equipment and they’re completely free! Dr. Leon Chaitow, naturopathic doctor and osteopath is one of the experts in this field of health and often recommends starting with a process called Pursed-Lip Breathing:
Sit or lay comfortably, placing one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest. Inhale slowly (2-4 seconds) through your nose. The expansion of your abdomen indicates the use of your diaphragm. Exhale more slowly (4-8 seconds) through pursed lips (like blowing through a straw). This type of exhalation causes an isotonic, eccentric contraction of your diaphragm, strengthening it, just like any other muscle toning exercise. Repeat this process at least 30 times, twice daily. Side effects include relaxation, clearer thinking and pain reduction!
I’ve also created a recorded breathing practice ~ The Healing Breath ~ for those who who prefer a guided practice.
It’s time to break the habit of stressful breathing and step forward on your journey to health – are you with me?