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Breathwork Follow- Up

Posted May 02 2011 11:46am
In my last post , I wrote about all of the benefits of breathwork. It's only been a few days since I've tried to incorporate breathwork into my daily routine. I've noticed it's very easy for me to set aside time in the morning. Being that it's just me and Raven home at that time, I'm faced with very little distractions. Even though I know the benefits are huge to practice breathwork before going to bed, I haven't been very consistent. My husband has been working late hours, so I have been going to bed later. Sometimes after I read, I just lay down in my bed and do some breathing. (which usually doesn't last for very long because I fall asleep) Also, the weekend was a bit of a struggle because I didn't have my normal routine. On Saturday, I didn't do my breathwork in the morning. Throughout the day, I felt more anxious and frazzled. Another challenge I've had is I find it very difficult for me to just sit and focus on my breath because random thoughts pop in my head constantly. Another annoying distraction has been my allergies. I'll be sitting quietly and then have a sneezing attack. Now I keep my box of tissues close by! Overall, I'm feeling happy with the results so far. My goal for now is consistency. I'm trying not to worry over how many times my mind wanders. For now, it's just about making breathwork a habit.

The second cd of "Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing" by Andrew Weil, M.D. includes eight strategies and three tips. So far I've been working on the first four strategies. I encourage you to try one or all of the them. Let me know if you do!

1. Following Your Breath
Simply put your attention on your breath without trying to influence it. (So hard for me, because I've noticed that I'm often taking shallow breaths.) Notice the contours of the inhalations and exhalations. When your mind wanders, which it will most likely do, just gently bring your attention back to your breath. He encourages you to make it a practice to observe your breath a few minutes a day. You can start doing it for two to three minutes in the morning to open your session of breathing exercises. Also, you can lengthen your time as a form of meditation. I find myself following my breath throughout the day. It's helped me to be more aware of how I'm breathing. I like to start with this before every session like he suggested. I think it's a good way to prepare for deeper breathwork.

2. Begin with Exhalation
Start by observing your breath how you usually experience it: in, out, in, out. Now reverse your conception of the breath cycle and begin each breath with an exhalation. (out, in, out, in) Do this for a few minutes without trying to influence your breath. You may be wondering what's the point of starting with an exhalation? Well Dr. Weil thinks that by doing this you're learning greater control of the breathing process and you'll be able to deepen your breathing by increasing the amount of air you move out. He recommends that you do this for a few minutes after an initial period of following your breath. I found this a little hard at first and I noticed I had to focus more. My mind didn't wander as much.

3. Squeeze More Air Out of the Lungs
The secret of increasing breath is to increase exhalation, rather than to extend inhalation. You have greater control over exhalation, and the muscles controlling it are more powerful. By squeezing more air out of your lungs, you'll take more air into them. Take a deep breath through your nose, as deep as you can. Let it out through your mouth, and when you think you've gotten to the end, try squeezing more air out. Squeeze a little more... and a little more. You should feel the effort in your ribs. I found I was able to squeeze more air than I thought. Usually my inhalations are longer than my exhalations. I noticed that when I did this, it helped slow down my breathing and make it deeper. I practice this for a few minutes after strategies one and two.

4. The Stimulating Breath
The Stimulating Breath is based on a formal pranayama breathing  technique called the Bellows Breath. He calls it the Stimulating Breath because its purpose is to raise the energy of the nervous system and increase alertness. (Sounds perfect for CFS, right??) The idea is to breathe in and out rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth lightly closed. Your inhalations and exhalations should be of equal length and as short as possible. You could even get three cycles per second. It produces a rapid movement in the diaphragm, which makes it a very noisy breath. When I did it, Raven got up from sleeping on her bed. She was very concerned and excited. This way of breathing reminds me of how she sounds when she's sniffing.

This is a more tiring strategy. You may even notice your body temperature rise slightly. He advises not to do the Stimulating Breath for more than fifteen seconds at first. I personally had a hard time doing it for even that long. I think that's mainly because I'm super congested with allergies. After you do the Stimulating Breath for fifteen seconds (or less), maintain a few minutes of regular breathing. He recommends that you slowly increase the time by about five seconds or so, until you have worked up to a full minute. I can't imagine doing it for one whole minute. But it's a worthy goal!

On the cd, we did a few more cycles of fifteen seconds followed by regular breathing. I did notice that it made me a little bit more alert. I can see myself doing this at various parts of the day when I'm lagging. Although, it may not be a good one to practice out in public.
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