HOW TO INTERPRET BREATHING EXERCISES
All breathing exercises are accompanied by a line diagram. To interpret each diagram, understanding the following is essential:
All breathing exercises and the Control Pause, which involves holding the breath, are performed after an exhalation.
MEASURE BREATHING VOLUME – YOUR CONTROL PAUSE
To measure the extent of your relative breathing volume, a very simple breath hold test called the Control Pause (CP) is used. The Control Pause provides feedback on your symptoms and, more importantly, your progress. Your CP measures the length of time that you can comfortably hold your breath.
For this you will need a watch or clock with a second hand.
- Take a small, silent breath in and a small, silent breath out.
- Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.
- Count how many seconds until you feel the first signs of air hunger.
- Your inhalation at the end of the breath hold should be no greater than your breathing prior to taking the measurement.
- Release your nose and breathe in through it.
If your breath in is disrupted, then you have held it for too long and have an inaccurate CP.
The following are important points to be aware of before we start:
- The breath is taken after gently exhaling.
- The breath is held only until the first urges. It is not a measure of the maximum length of time that you can hold your breath.
- Your CP only measures your breath hold time. It is not an exercise to correct your breathing.
Remember that taking your CP entails holding your breath only until the first urges. If you had to take a big breath at the end of the breath hold, then you held your breath for too long. The most accurate CP is taken first thing in the morning after waking up.
WHAT DOES THE CP (COMFORTABLE BREATH HOLD TIME) MEAN?
The lower your breath hold time, the greater your breathing volume and symptoms of anxiety. Big breathers are naturally more stressed than correct volume healthy breathers. A person with a high CP is a lot more relaxed and calm than a person with a lower CP. People who experience panic or hyperventilation attacks are invariably big breathers. The objective is to reach a CP of 40 seconds.
The following are essential rules to making progress.
- You will feel better each time your CP increases by five seconds.
- If your CP does not change, you will not feel better.
- Your CP should increase by three to four seconds each week.
- The most accurate CP is taken first thing after waking. This CP is most accurate since you cannot influence your breathing during sleep, and it is based on your breathing volume as set by your respiratory centre.
- Taking your CP throughout the day will give you feedback on your symptoms at those particular times.
- Your goal is to have a morning CP of 40 seconds for six months.
THREE STEPS TO INCREASING YOUR CP
STEP 1: Observe your breathing throughout the day. To stop your big breathing:
a. Close your mouth;
b. Stop sighing;
c. Apply gentle, calm breathing;
d. Never hear your breathing while resting.
STEP 2: Apply: Gentle reduced breathing, relaxation and still your mind.
STEP 3: Take physical exercise with correct breathing. (Physical exercise is necessary to increase your CP from 20 to 40 seconds. More details on this are further on.)
STEP 1 is the foundation. Make the change to nasal breathing on a permanent basis, suppress your sighs, be aware of your breathing and ensure that it is quiet throughout the day. A regular sigh is enough to maintain chronic hyperventilation; therefore, it is very important to stop sighing by swallowing or holding your breath. Unless your foundation is strong, your progress will be inadequate. If you sigh and have taken a large breath, then hold your breath for ten seconds to counteract this. You will make progress by keeping your mouth closed but this will not be enough by itself. It is also necessary to reverse the overbreathing habit that you have developed over the years.
COMPARE OUR LIFESTYLES
|Fifty years ago:||Today:|
|Greater physical activity||Little physical activity|
|More natural foods||More processed foods|
|Less overeating||Habitual overeating|
|Cooler temperatures within the home||Higher temperatures in homes and warmer clothing|
|Less public talking||Talking forms a large part of our working life|
|Less stress, less competitive pressures, a more green environment and nature||More stress, artificial and noisy concrete environment, information overload|
|Result: Correct volume breathing, higher CP, anxiety and depression uncommon||Result: Big volume breathing, lower CP, anxiety and depression very common|
As your CP increases, your breathing volume reduces to more normal levels.
As your breathing volume reduces to more normal levels, your CP increases.
The following is an example of the relationship between your breathing volume and CP.
CP of 10 seconds: breathing is noisy, loud, irregular, large, heavy, erratic and effortful.
CP of 20 seconds: breathing is heavy but calmer and a natural pause occurs between each breath.
CP of 30 seconds: breathing is calm and quiet and the natural pause gets longer.
CP of 40 seconds: breathing is very quiet, regular, calm and unnoticeable.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE PRACTISING BREATHING EXERCISES CORRECTLY
Ultimately, all exercises are designed to correct your breathing and reverse chronic hyperventilation. The goal is for your breathing to become quiet, gentle, calm and regular, as characterized by a high CP.
All exercises involve one thing and that is to breathe less for periods of time to reverse the bad habit of overbreathing.
When you practice a breathing exercise, it is necessary that you feel a tolerable and nonstressful hunger for air. This is good feedback and essential to correcting the habit of overbreathing. Feeling a need for air is the result of an increase in CO2 in your blood. Your respiratory centre is reacting to this increased CO2 by stimulating your breathing to keep it at a lower level. After nine to twelve minutes of air hunger, the increased CO2 penetrates the blood–brain barrier and resets the respiratory centre a little. This is indicated by a higher CP taken a few minutes after completing 15–20 minutes of breathing exercises.
Feeling the need for air is not a result of your body being deprived of oxygen. It arises because you are breathing less than you normally do.
There is just one simple rule and without it, you will make little progress: the only way that you know that you are reducing your breathing is when you feel a need for air.
A need for air is the same as a want for air. The experience of breathlessness is similar to partaking in physical activity.
To experience and understand the need for air, perform the following (the degree of air shortage will depend on the exercises you are undertaking):
- Take a small breath in;
- Gently breathe out;
- Hold your nose and wait until you feel a distinct but non-stressful need to breathe in.
To Breathe Less – Feel Breathless
PANICKING WHILE REDUCING YOUR BREATHING
It can be quite common for people with anxiety to panic a little when they first practise reduced breathing exercises.
Depending on your individual health, you might have experienced periods of anxiety and hyperventilation attacks in the past. During these past attacks, as your breathing got faster and more chaotic, you probably experienced a feeling of suffocation or hunger for air.
The following exercises, through creating a need for air, may make you feel discomfort. However, know that there is a significant difference between the hunger for air from your attacks in the past and the hunger for air that is created through reduced breathing exercises. This time, you have complete control over your air hunger and can alter it at will.
To help with this, practise the exercises gently and feel a need for air no greater than what you would experience during a mild walk. Having air hunger while relaxing should not create tension. If the air shortage is too much, tension will be created.
In addition, don’t be disheartened if your progress is not as quick as you would like. Often, persons with anxiety have perfectionist tendencies. They set high standards for themselves and, in their effort to strive for perfection, they get upset if progress is not according to their liking.
Breathing is a beautiful ingredient of life that should be gently coaxed instead of forced into place. I can assure you that you will make progress as long as you understand the concept of reduced breathing and are able to put it into practise. However, progress does not always occur in a straight line.
If you find reduced breathing while doing sitting exercises too difficult, begin with exercises that involve distraction, such as walking with your mouth closed, any of the small breath hold exercises or bringing your attention to you inner body. These are explained in detail further on.
NOTE OF CAUTION
While breathing exercises are perfectly safe for most, they are not recommended for a number of people. If you are unsure, do not attempt breathing exercises. Instead contact me via the contact information in appendix.
Category 1. Do not attempt any of the breathing exercises if you have or are undergoing any of the following:
- Cancer treatment
- Type 1 diabetes
- Unsatisfactory blood pressure levels
- Chest pains or pain in the heart region
- Sickle cell anaemia
- Arterial aneurysm
- Any heart problems in the past six months
- Uncontrolled hyperthyroidism
- A known brain tumour or kidney disease.
About two thirds of the people who undergo reduced breathing experience a detox or cleansing reaction. Better volume breathing improves blood flow and the oxygenation of all tissues and organs. Cleansing reactions take place when the CP moves through 10, 20 and 40 seconds. It can also occur when the CP is two, four and six times its initial value.
Note: if you experience an increased feeling of coldness as you apply reduced breathing, cease the exercise and consult with an experienced practitioner. An increased sensation of coldness can indicate a drop in blood sugar levels and a snack is recommended.
Generally, cleansing reactions are an aggravation of your usual symptoms, are mild and can last from several hours to several weeks. For most people, these reactions last just one to two days.
Depending on the person, typical symptoms include:
- Females may be emotional
- Males may be depressed
- Slight aches and pains
- Mucus from the nose or lungs
- More frequent visits to the bathroom
- Loss of appetite
- Increased yawning and fatigue
- General feeling of unwellness
- Short-term headache
- Increased irritability or anxiety
- More saliva
- Metallic or coppery taste in the mouth and increased demand for water.
- Don’t worry; it is highly unlikely that you will experience every reaction. If you do undergo a strong cleansing, your body has gone through a major physiological change and you will feel much better from it.
To help reduce the intensity and duration of cleansing reactions, drink warm water regularly throughout the day and continue with reduced breathing by relaxation. (Drink ¼ teaspoon of sea salt dissolved in hot water to help restore essential minerals)
During the cleansing, your Control Pause will quickly decline. It will increase again when the cleansing reaction has passed, and you will feel much better.
On a positive note, everyone will experience improvements in their health, including: increased calmness and concentration; less anxiety, stress and uncontrolled thought activity; better moods, better sleep, more energy and improved well being.
By intensively applying reduced breathing, you will make quicker progress but may experience a stronger cleansing reaction.
By gently applying reduced breathing, you will make slower progress but will experience a more gentle cleansing reaction.
Cleansing reactions are an aggravation of your symptoms. During cleansing, you may experience anxiety, depression, emotions, a racing mind, fatigue, headaches, tummy upset, insomnia, a runny nose and more.
Having a cleansing reaction is not negative. It is positive as your body is becoming healthier. For the first time in your life, you are dealing with the root cause of your condition.
Work your way through the cleansing. It’s not easy, but boy is it worth the effort!