Working in wellness and as a physio in the area of acute respiratory, I was all about the 'deep' breathing...or taking 'big' breaths. Recently I underwent some professional development courses in breathing re-training and let me tell you what I learnt changed the way I will live and treat from now on!
First up, what is breathing re-training? It is based in physiology. Basically, it is the process of training the respiratory centre in the brain to 'normalise' the rate and volume of breaths taken. In doing this it will effect your blood chemistry because breathing is closely associated with the pH of blood. It has everything to do with the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen and the way the body compensates for keeping this balance. (Note: I put ' ' around 'normalise' because everyone is different with different medical histories/lifestyle factors that can affect the end result. However, the process will still move you closer to 'normal'. **It is for this reason that you shouldn't adjust your breathing without the guidance of a breath educator who knows your whole medical picture.
Secondly, what is normal physiological breathing? When I went to university we got taught a normal breathing rate for an adult was between 12-20 breaths per minute with a volume of air per breath dependent upon your body size. For example, someone my size would have a tidal volume of 500mls per breath. This volume would also change depending on whether you are sneezing, coughing, sighing, yawning etc.
What I learned through Tess Graham's courses was that 40years ago normal was 8-12 breaths per minute. A comparison of the difference could be depicted in what breathing looks like during a panic attack with the paper bag vs when the person has calmed themselves down. Think about the symptoms associated with breathing that fast and big.
If humans have been around for 100s of 1000s of years why would the physiology (the chemical and physical makeup have changed so much?) Ms Graham hypothesised that it was the change in lifestyle. We live more fast paced lives and stress is at an all time high, juggling all the different areas of modern life. Plus, our diets. Yes food has an impact on breathing. Now I am not a dietician or nutritionist, just a physio and breath educator, so all I will say is that complex carbohydrates can increase your breathing rate too.
So what does correct breathing look like? --->
Breathing re-training is intrinsically safe when performed without ANY discomfort. However, because breathing is so closely linked with this inherent balance in our bodies. Changing your breathing without supervision or too quickly can result in a healing response whereby you may feel more emotional, have changes in your gastro-intestinal function among other symptoms.
Think you may be over breathing?
(**Think about the following question during exercise and/or sleeping not just during resting breathing...)
Curious to start your own breath re-training? Well to celebrate a year since Zephyr Movement opened its doors! You can receive 10% off any breath re-training initial consult for the week starting Thursday 23rd July (because Thursdays are my favourite day!) ending Thursday 30th July!! Enquire here to claim :)
Enjoy your day and nurture your lungs by simply breathing a little more gently from now on.
Let's talk mindfulness...before I had a persistent pain condition, studied hypnotherapy and struggled with my anxiety I had no idea what this word meant! I knew it was kind of in the meditation realm (which I found incredibly intimidating) but that was about it.
Mindfulness simply means directing your attention toward the present moment. Now why would you want to do this? In practicing bringing your mind back to the now no matter how many times the mind tries to distract you. This can be with what you're going to cook for dinner or what time what meeting is on. This teaches you emotion regulation. I often describe this as creating space between the situation and your reaction to it. Meaning, instead of yelling at the person who took the last toilet roll from a place of lack and fear (couldn't help myself #soznotsoz) having another couple of seconds to realise that person is wearing a nurses' uniform and it may have been the only chance she had to get supplies before another string of shift work. Perhaps that person would have been able to observe the uniform in that moment if their thoughts weren't on trying to remember what meals they needed to prep, how much the shopping was going to cost or whether they'd run out of toothpaste? In other words focused their attention on the present moment. Wait wasn't that mindfulness? :) I can hear you asking but how?!? Where do I start? Ok ok ok here are some great ways to start.
1. Breathing!! Try focusing on how you are breathing in this moment. Is it slightly difficult or effortless? What body parts move on the in and/or the out breath? How could you alter your breathing in this moment to relax the most muscles? Would it help if you breathed into the areas of tension? Breath is a great anchor because if you are alive you will continue to breath and each breath will be different moment to moment keeping you PRESENT!!
2. The Senses!! Pick a sense; sight, sound, scent, taste, touch. Now take a minute...how many orange objects can you see right now? What are the background sounds you have been zoning out? (For me it's this pesky fly!!!) What smells can you detect...perhaps a tree or candle or flower? What does this inside of your mouth taste like and is it different between each swallow of saliva? What do the different textures of your clothes, the chair beneath you feel like? The pattern embedded on the back of my legs says I should definitely get up from this chair soon.
3. Get curious with how you move! Even getting up out of a chair will be different each time you do it. Notice if there is equal weight between both legs, do you use your arms to push up, do you make a sound as you get up? Tune into the movement and get present with how you perform it. This is often why I love pole. When hanging upside down by the skin of the back of your knee you have to pay very close attention to what all of your limbs are doing, what is actually gripping the pole and exactly how close your head is to the ground. You are forced to be present.
If that doesn't sound like your idea of fun. I challenge you to stay present through the whole or part of cooking dinner tonight by noticing your breath, taking in all the senses and noticing in great detail how you move. To think that one small shift in self-awareness during an every day activity could result in lowered heart rate, decreased anxiety and increased ability to focus, just to name a few!
Have fun with it and let me know how you go!
Hope you enjoyed this little intro to mindfulness. Remember to be kind ✌️
Breathing, as long as we are living we will be doing it all day, erry day, one way or another!
As a physiotherapist you need a wide range of knowledge on different body systems. Thankfully uni break it down for us into regions. So I learnt about the physiology of the lungs and circulatory systems. I learnt the anatomy of the trunk muscles and biomechanics on getting air/mucus in and out but it wasn't until practicing physio, my interest in breath became a whole lot more holistic.
Basically our nervous system drives breath at the most organic source. Lots of things can change the speed at which we breath, the size of the breaths and the muscles we use to do it including dis-ease, pain, activity, input from the senses, skeletal structure or even emotions.
Most people know about fight or flight it supports us when we are in states of stress whether that be physical, emotional or mental. For sympathetic think surprised? What happens...? I take a big breath in usually hold it, my shoulders lift as a way of protecting my chest, my heart races and my overall level of arousal lifts to prepare me to fight or flight. (I also think this is a good example of not being able to compartmentalise physical, emotional responses).
Rest and digest though, is the lesser known soothing sister (parasympathetic). This system is what you want to heal, relax, support your digestive system and nourish your mind, body and soul. Breathing is an easy and effective way of activating more of the soothing sister into your life. Think of your restorative yoga class and how they ask you to 'belly breathe'?
But what if you're so stressed out and work on a computer all day long so your chest/shoulders don't know how to take a break from breathing?
Use your nervous system to decrease stress:
There are manual techniques to stimulate the diaphragm to make it work more effectively which I can help you with as well. If you're interested to know more, contact me for a 1-on-1 session or attend October's workshop called Just Breathe at Recover Wellbeing.
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