All posts by perfectbreathing

Does Breathing Help Pain Management?

guest-150x130 (1)We’ve come back to this topic a number of times as new information arises, but this one clearly takes the cake. Countless people have shared personal stories of how the breath can be used to manage pain, and many women point to their experiences with childbirth as a prime example, but I’m voting for this gentleman as the new poster-child for breathing and pain management.

Aron Ralston is the hiker whose amazing story of survival is the subject of the film “127 Hours” in which he is forced to amputate his own arm with a pocket knife after it becomes trapped between a boulder and a crevasse wall. After waiting for help for more than 3 days, he realizes that that only way he will see his family again is to cut off his arm.

Ralston told The Sun that he used controlled breathing techniques in order to remain calm while cutting through his arm. “I breathed through it, much like the way in natural childbirth training you practise to breathe through it. Instead of being afraid of it, you go into it. When I severed that nerve I closed my eyes.”

Any questions about the pain management properties of the breath?

Share your stories! We’d love to hear from you!

Breathing and Energy Management

guest-150x130It is not unusual to hear people talking about “time management.” Most of us try to jam far too much into the hours available to us, thinking that if we could more effectively manage every single second of our day, we could finally catch up and relax.

Late breaking news flash: It’s not going to happen.

It’s time to stop focusing on time management and instead focus on “energy management.” Time doesn’t get anything done. Energy (combined with intention) is what “makes the world go ‘round.” Of course it is important to use your time effectively, but the amount of time in a day is fixed. Although I’ve often wished I could add a few more hours to the day, wishing clearly doesn’t make it so. Energy on the other hand, is a renewable resource. You can get more of it and just like money, if you spend it judiciously it will last longer and go a lot farther.

There are different kinds of energy – physical energy, emotional energy, creative energy, and spiritual energy. Each of them has their own dynamic. The choices we make during the course of a day either renew and increase them, or deplete them. And each of them has a direct impact on our performance, our ability to accomplish things, and the quality of our lives.

Each of these energies has something in common: The breath. Although each of these distinct energies are affected by a number of other variables – diet, sleep, relationships, etc – it is the breath that is the common denominator to each of them, and it is the breath that will provide you with the awareness and insight to maximize your energy, manage it effectively, and perform at your best.

We’ll be delving deeper into this important topic in the coming weeks, so stay tuned and be sure to share your thoughts and stories!

Laugh, and Breathe Better!

3936683753_977f0e6c6b_z-300x300We all know laughter is good for us, but a strong tie has been made between laughter and breathing. From the Philippine Star comes a story on Laughing and Stress Relief.

According to Dr. Madan Kataria, quoted in the story, “If we can learn to change our breathing pattern from shallow to deep, we can easily alter our body arousal system. With deep breathing, [your] body will not experience stress response, even if we have disturbing thoughts. Therefore, by changing the breathing pattern from chest to abdomen, we can change our reaction to stressful thoughts. Most Laughter Yoga exercises are designed to bring awareness of laughter in the belly, which helps to move the diaphragm. Therefore, belly laughing shifts our breathing pattern from the upper chest to belly breathing.”

The combination of laughter exercises with breathing and stretching exercises derived from yoga comprises Laughter Yoga. Yoga teachings say, according to the article, that “we are alive because of the life-sustaining energy force known in yoga as prana. It enters our body through breathing and flows through the energy channels called nadis, very much like the Chinese chi, which flows through meridians.”

Regardless of whether or not you study yoga, it has been established that motion creates emotion. Think about it. The direct link between the body and the mind has also been clearly proven. Whatever happens to your mind, happens to your body. For example, if you observe depressed and sad people, their bodies are also depressed. They walk slowly, talk slowly; all their bodily movements are slower.

Dr. Kataria said in the article that father often told him, “If you are sad, don’t sit idle, keep doing some physical work, go for a walk or jog, and you will feel better.” He did feel better by keeping his body active. This proves the two-way link between body and mind: If we can change the quality of our thoughts, then we can change our body behavior. For each type of thought pattern, there is an appropriate body behavior. If we can bring a change in bodily behavior by changing physical gestures voluntarily we will experience peace in our minds.

The lesson? Laughter truly is the best medicine!

Breathing a Huge Sigh

2272211604_249ac351fd_z-300x225Interesting new research has emerged about the importance of the lowly sigh. We all do it,

and for a variety of reasons. In a story on the website MedIndia – Network for Health, sighing actually increases the flexibility of the human breathing system.

The article explains, “Scientists have found that sighing resets breathing patterns that are getting out of whack and keep our respiratory system flexible.”

The study was undertaken by researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium. They rigged up eight men and 34 women with sensor-equipped shirts that recorded their breathing, heart rates and blood carbon dioxide levels over 20 minutes of quiet sitting.

What the scientists were looking for were specific changes over one-minute periods encompassing sighs that could confirm or contradict the ‘re-setter hypothesis’ for the function of sighing.
“Our results show that the respiratory dynamics are different before and after a sigh. We hypothesize that a sigh acts as a general re-setter of the respiratory system,” said Elke Vlemincx, one of the co-authors.

The re-setter hypothesis is based on the idea that breathing is an inherently dynamic and chaotic system, with all sorts of internal and external factors changing how much oxygen we need and keeping our lungs healthy and ready for action.
According to researchers, when breathing is in one state for too long, the lungs deteriorate. They become stiffer and less efficient in gas exchange.

So, in times of stress, when breathing is less variable, a sigh can reset the respiratory system and loosen the lung’s air sacs, or alveoli, which may be accompanied by a sensation of relief.
Fascinating stuff, this breathing.

The study was published in a recent issue of the journal Biological Psychology.

Click here to read more.

Breathe Easy!

3968719105_793d35f458_z-300x199I found myself on a massage table recently (I know, tough duty), face down and ready for some bodywork. I once again realized I had forgotten a key massage ingredient – eucalyptus oil.

I am cursed with sinuses that tend to fill up quickly when I lay face down. Not sure if this is a common problem, but it can quickly convert a relaxing massage into a fight for breath. I like to work with my massage therapist using deep-breathing techniques, for maximum benefit. When my sinuses are clogged, I derive less from the experience.

I have found, thanks to a sympathetic massage therapist a while back, that a tiny bit of eucalyptus oil, available at many health food stores, or other essential aromatic oils such as peppermint can help dramatically in such situations.

Though eucalyptus can be a bit harsh if used to excess or if applied directly to the nostrils, and can cause a reverse reaction if used too much, a drop or two of eucalyptus on a cotton ball can keep you breathing fully while in the face-down position.

Aromatic oils can also be a blessing during cold and flu season, as can anything containing a healthy does of hot peppers. Seem like such a simple solution, but it works, and way better than developing dependcies on over-the-counter meds which contain oxymetazoline (Afrin), phenyleherine (Neosynephrine) or xylometazoline (Otrivin or Inspire). You can also purchase simple saline nose sprays which can be effective.

We’d love to hear about your experiences. I can’t be the only one who suffers in the face-down position! Drop us a note!

How to Improve Your Memory (hint: Breathe!)

guest-150x130 (4)I have to say that for as much of a flag-waving proponent of the amazing effects of conscious breathing techniques (CBTs) as I am, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of some of the techniques and claims.

Alternate nostril breathing techniques fall into that category. I’ve never seen the kind of convincing studies that have proven many of the other claims around CBTs. But now we have the YOU docs – Drs. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen making some pretty bold claims around improving memory using left nostril breathing in the ezine “healthzone.ca.”

According to healthzone.ca “undergraduates who did left-nostril breathing before a memory test scored 16 per cent higher than those who didn’t. And left-nostril breathing improved spatial memory scores in kids by 43 per cent.” What is really quite fascinating is that right nostril breathing had no effect (on those tests). We’ll have to wait for the sequel to find out if right nostril breathing can help me write that hit song!

You might want to read the whole article. Now where are those car keys…

Sex and Breathing (or Taking it to the Sheets)

guest-150x130 (3)Ok, I have to admit that some of our posts may get a bit geeky from time to time. Information about how brain cells affect the breathing process may not appeal to your average Joe Sixpack. But fear not. Here is news you can use!

Dallas free-lancer Jenny Block wrote a great piece a while back regarding her foray into the world of yoga and how the breathing techniques she learned have provided her with new inspiration (pun intended) and pleasure with her partner.

A great observation that she made was that the simpler the solution, the more likely that people will ignore it or not take it seriously. We have definitely found this to be true with breathing techniques in general. They equate expensive and difficult with effective, but we are slowly converting people – one breather at at time!

Here are a few of Jenny’s discoveries:

1) Aside from making everything function better, breathing focuses your mind and brings you into the moment and allows you to focus on your partner, instead of worrying about that report that you owe your boss. It allows you to relax and fully appreciate the experience. Matching your breath with your partners will deepen your connection.

2) You can use the pace of your breath to control the pace of your lovemaking. Fast, short breathing will get you to the top faster (“I’m going to be late for work!” See #1), while slow, deep breathing will allow you to slow things down and take your time. For extra credit, try combining the two!

3) Focusing on your breath opens you up to the creativity of the moment. I helps you to become spontaneous. It clears your mind, which is why it is so heavily used in meditation and other spiritual practices. It shuts down that voice that is always criticizing and analyzing which is why it is also used by actors, singers, musicians, and performing artists of all kinds to open themselves up to the muse.

Looking for more? Checkout our article reprint archive at Perfectbreathing.com.

You can find Jenny’s full article here.

Got any tips to offer? We love to hear from you!

More Evidence Tying Stress to Heart Attack & Stroke

guest-150x130 (2)I’m not sure that we actually needed more evidence, but this is pretty compelling.
One of the problems with tying chronic stress and stressful events to heart attack and stroke is that the chemical markers associated with stress are usually gone by the time anyone starts looking for them after a heart attack or stroke.

But research conducted by Dr. Gideon Koren and Stan Van Uum of the University of Western Ontario shows that our hair stores a record of these markers and can provide an accurate history of stress in our lives and especially stressful events that lead to heart attack and stroke.

There is now a mountain of evidence demonstrating the link between the epidemic of chronic stress and any number of maladies such as anxiety and panic attack, heart disease and high blood pressure, reduced immune function, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, cholesterol, (etc, etc, etc) that we all should be taking it very seriously.

You might just find that you are getting addicted to the cure. Breathe. Exercise. Sleep. Spend time with the people you love and doing the things you love. If definitely beats the alternative.

Breathing to Lose Weight? The BreathSlim Review

mind-150x130 (8)We recently had the opportunity to review a new breathing device called BreathSlim that claims to help users loose unwanted pounds by just using the power of the breath. Most everyone is skeptical when they hear these kinds of claims, so we were happy to have a chance to use the device and see for ourselves.

Breathslim is a seemingly simple device that is the result of more than 12 years of research. It consists of a small plastic beaker with a filter and a plastic breathing tube. The beaker is filled with about an inch of water. You begin by inhaling through your nose and then exhaling into the tube and into the beaker of water, which creates backpressure and thus forces more oxygen into the blood stream. Mountain climbers use a similar technique called “pressure breathing” to increase the O2 in their blood.

The device is simple to use, but using the BreathSlim forces you to take deep breaths and definitely works and strengthens your diaphragm and other respiratory muscles. This practice gradually re-develops the habit of slow, deep breathing that most adults have lost. In our book “Perfect Breathing: Transform Your Life One Breath at a Time” we build a strong case for the transformative benefits of slow, deep, conscious breathing with even just a few minutes of practice everyday. The BreathSlim team recommends that you use their device for 20 minutes daily. People who follow that recommendation on a regular basis will undoubtedly see the positive changes to their health, performance, and emotions, which we have extensively detailed in “Perfect Breathing” and are the subject of nearly every post in this blog.

So does BreathSlim help you lose weight? It is hard for us to say. Yes, I have personally used the device, but fortunately do not have any extra weight to shed. The BreathSlim team makes a strong case from a metabolic standpoint that increasing your oxygen level creates more energy by burning more fat, but the scientific studies that have been done so far are somewhat limited. We did speak to several enthusiastic BreathSlim users who have lost weight while using the device, but would love to see a strong double-blind study to really seal the deal.

In BreathSlim’s favor is the fact that conscious breathing techniques can directly affect and counteract a number of the variables that determine our propensity for adding and keeping weight on – emotional wellbeing, energy level, overall health, and especially stress – which not only affects appetite (stress eating) and sleep, but also can signal the body to store more fat. Improved breathing also improves awareness – which can help people be more conscious of their mind, body, emotions and the choices they make, possibly allowing them to make better, healthier decisions.

One thing that we can say with confidence after using the device, is that if someone uses BreathSlim on a daily basis, they will experience a host of positive benefits and changes in their life. If you loose those expendable pounds along the way, well that is just icing on the cake!

Have you used the BreathSlim or have other thoughts on breathing and weight loss? Let us hear from you!

Perfect Breathing, Breathslim, on LifeTime Channel

mind-150x130 (7)We were recently invited to appear on Lifetime channels morning show “The Balancing Act” along with our friends at Breathslim, and author Pam Grout to talk about how the breath can dramatically impact all of the different dimensions of your life – your health, performance, and emotions(detailed in our book “Perfect Breathing”). The show segment is about the Breathslim, a device that uses the breath to accelerate weight loss (see our recent review of the Breathslim device). We were invited to provide expert insight into the other benefits of conscious breathing.

We were of course very skeptical at first, but came away feeling pretty good about it after talking with author Pam Grout, who is an expert on the subject, meeting people who have used the device to lose weight, and getting to know the CEO, Aleksey Shlyakhta. As we said in our review, we’re happy to throw our support behind anything that gets people to spend 15-20 minutes a day doing deep, intentional breathing. How wrong could that be?

The segment airs on the Lifetime channel (The Balancing Act) at 7:00 AM, this Wednesday, November 10th. Check out the trailer (this will become a link to the show after air date):

PS: Our friends at Breathslim have given us a promotional code (PPP-7sks) good for a 10% discount.