Breathing: A Healing Tool

Breathing’s importance in our health is slowly beginning to be recognized. Studies conclude that one of the most significant factors in a person’s health and longevity is how well they breathe. Your breath is your source of oxygen, which is key to the body’s ability to produce energy and reduce stress.

Breathing to Calm

Smiling children in PJs
Relax and smile like a baby

Breathing is a free strategy in the Pain Processing Practice that makes a massive difference in how anyone feels and functions.

In the US, breathing is beginning to have some attention, finally. Most people normally breathe in and out without conscious thought, but this normal function is your first tool for your toolbox. Do not assume there’s nothing to understand about this natural function. Without focus, improper breathing is the norm in our society.

Your breath is your source of oxygen. That oxygen is key to the body’s ability to catalyze many oxidation reactions in the body (metabolism) and reduce both pain and stress. Self healing improves through the incredibly potent and beneficial effects of purposeful breathing.

When in pain often, you are locked into worry, hurry, overwork, compulsive behaviors. Those are all causal factors in developing chronic stress and fatigue. Developing a routine breathing practice leads to a body and mind that is more resilient. And better able to adapt to and counteract the effects of stress. 

Notice Breathing

First, notice any anomalies regarding your breathing. 

Spend time to pay attention for an entire day to your breathing. That is difficult if you have never done it, but it is worth a lot to do. You will have a pain-relieving tool. 

Observe the following aspects of your breathing. 

  • How is the quality of your respiration? 
  • Is your breath deep or shallow? 
  • Does your posture or position encourage or restrict your ability to take deep breaths? 
  • Do your clothes encourage or restrict breathing?

If you are like most people, your lungs don’t get a workout. You will probably realize that you are utilizing one quarter or less of your lung capacity!

Feeling Pain – Breath

If you feel any pain, start simply by breathing in your nose and out your mouth. That is the first thing a nurse will tell you. 

Deep Breathing Exercises

breathe to stress lessPracticing deep breathing throughout your day can not only relax you but can help you to release the stress build-up. Start this technique by placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Take through your nose a slow deep breath. Then count to six, hold your breath to the count of three, then exhale through your mouth for a count of six. Repeat for seven to 12 cycles. It does not have to be to a count of six and three. Some people like seven and five, eight and two or four.

4-7-8 breathing

Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, the 4-7-8 breathing technique based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama. It helps practitioners control over their breathing when practiced regularly. This breathing practice is said to help people fall asleep in a shorter time. Specific number moment patterns which involve holding your breath for some time allows your body to replenish its oxygen. From the lungs outward, breathing techniques like 4-7-8 can give tissues a much-needed oxygen boost. 

The 4-7-8 technique assists both mind and body to focus on regulating the breath. When you do not worry at night, you sleep better. Dr. Weil has described this practice as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.” Users state it soothes a racing heart or frazzled nerves.

clean bedroom for sleep
make your surroundings pleasant for the best rest

When you experience sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression and stress, 4-7-8 breathing is helpful. It overcomes distraction slipping you into a more relaxed state. Over time with practice, 4-7-8 breathing or really any breathing technique becomes more powerful for you. At first, the effects of this technique are not apparent. Like with circular breathing, you may feel lightheaded at the beginning. Practicing 4-7-8 breathing twice a day yields more results for people than for those who only practice it once. Paying attention to self care through breathing is healing.

To practice 4-7-8 breathing, settle in a place to comfortably sit or even lie down. Good posture helps, especially when learning. If you’re using this technique to fall to sleep faster, lying down is best. How your mouth is situated makes a difference in breathing. Rest your tip of the tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your top front teeth. Keeping your tongue in place throughout the practice is essential. The method of keeping your tongue from moving when you exhale is complicated and takes practice to learn. Some purse their lips when exhaling during 4-7-8 breathing. girl looking up

The cycle of one breath is letting your lips part. Make a whooshing sound while exhaling completely through your mouth. Closing your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head. Next for a seven-count, for seven seconds, hold your breath. Whoosh exhale entirely from your mouth for an eight count. When you inhale again, you initiate another cycle of breath. Practice this pattern for four full breaths. The held breath (for seven seconds) or for the count of 7 is the most critical part of this practice. It is best only to practice 4-7-8 breathing for four breaths when you’re first learning. Gradually you can work your way up to eight full breaths.

This breathing technique is best practiced in a setting where you are prepared to relax fully. While falling asleep is not the only reason to use this method or another of the techniques listed, practicing it can put you in a deeply relaxed state. You don’t need to be fully alert after practicing your breathing cycles.

Stomach Breathing

pause sign
Breathing gives you pause

Another breathing technique to add to your toolbox is stomach breathing. Breathing from the stomach is what humans are designed to do. When you begin mindful breathing, note whether your stomach or chest moves first. You find that you breathe by leading with your chest. Chest breathing limits the amount of oxygen you can take in with each breath. That restriction increases stress. Instead, allow your abdomen to expand, then breathe. Use your transverse abdominis ( transversus abdominis muscle, is a muscle layer of the front and side abdominal wall) and expand your abdominal cavity. This breathing technique allows your diaphragm to drop, thus opening up your lungs. You can then follow up by expanding your chest, and you’ll have more space in total to take in more oxygen.

Circular Breathing 

breathe for a peaceful worldThis technique was made famous by the iceman and wind instrument players. Sit, however, is most comfortable for you. Or stand in a relaxed position. You are going to expand your lungs freely without any constriction. If possible, practice this breathing technique on an empty stomach. First, warm up by inhaling deeply, letting go of worries. Draw your breath until you feel a slight pressure inside your chest, focused on your solar plexus. Hold this breath for a moment, then exhale completely, pushing all the air out. Hold this posture for a moment. Repeat this warm-up about 15 times. With practice, you will learn what is most comfortable for you. 

30 Power Breaths 

30 Power Breaths, it is fine to do less at first – Imagine you’re in a beautiful location blowing up a balloon. In short, but powerful bursts inhale through your nose and exhale through the mouth. Your belly is pulled outward when breathing in and inward when you are breathing out. If possible, keep a steady pace but expect a feeling of lightheadedness when you first practice. 

It is usually easier to do this breathing with eyes closed. Use your midriff fully and do this around 30 times or until you feel your body saturates with oxygen. For some people, this method of breathing is overwhelming because they have never had so much oxygen before. But that is also why this is a great pain reliever. Symptoms could be tingling sensations in your body or the feeling of electrical surges of energy.

Equal Breathing

Equal breathing is another technique from ancient yoga, which requires you to breathe in and out through your nose only. While doing this, you become more aware. You maintain your breathing for an equal amount of time on both the inward and outward breaths. For example, you breathe out for 4 seconds and then breathe in for four seconds. Or six seconds in and six out. inhale renewal

This equal breathing technique helps you empty your lungs then fill them with oxygen. This slow deep breathing will allow you to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system or ‘rest and digest’ state. That state is different from the fight or flight or freeze or fawn, etc., sympathetic nervous system state. Your parasympathetic nervous system calms you typically. It is a great way to stave off an anxiety response.

Box Breathing

“Box breathing” is used by Navy SEAL trainees: inhale, hold, exhale, and hold for four seconds each. Do this breathing technique for a minimum of five minutes in the morning and evening.

Bellows Breathing Exercises

Known as the Breath of Fire, bellows breathing helps to calm your mind and relax you. Blow your nose if needed to clear any mucus. With a straight back and closed mouth, sit in a comfortable position. Placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Through your nose rapidly and forcefully breath for 12 breaths. End in a long, deep inhales and exhales. Rest and relax while breathing normally, then repeat the process seven times.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

This breathing exercise helps lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, and reduce mood swings, all of which can contribute to low energy and fatigue. Clear your nose of mucus. Comfortably sit with your back as straight as possible. Close your mouth with your tongue, touching the roof of your mouth. Use your finger on your right hand to close your right nostril. Deeply inhale through your left nostril and count to six. Next, hold your breath for three seconds or to the count of three. 

I breathe out distressPlace your left pointer finger over your left nostril. Then exhale through your right nostril for a count of six. Holding your breath for three seconds, keep your pointer finger over your left nostril and inhale deeply for a count of six. Hold your breath for three seconds, then place your right finger over your right nostril. Then exhale through your left nostril for a count of six. 

Repeat the whole process for at least five minutes, alternating your breathing through each nostril. 

With any breathing technique 

Start with noticing your body while breathing. Then with practice scanning your body to become aware of all the sensations. At some point in using a breathing practice, it will be possible to include body scanning in your self-observation. Scanning up and down your body to learn what parts lack energy and what parts are overflowing. 

It is essential to observe any blockage between the two. Imagine energy and warmth to those blocked areas. Release, let go of, disperse the blockages. These are pain, trauma and emotional releases. Feel your whole body fill up with warmth and love. Notice the formally trapped negativity goes away. 

People can experience visualizations like swirling colors during breathing practices. Once you encounter them, know this is a form of communication. It is fine to enjoy them, go into them, embrace them, or merge with them. But if none of this happens, that is fine also. 

Get to know your inner world and how it correlates pain, tension, or blockages in your body. (If 30 circular breaths are difficult or painful, then practice another breathing exercise first.)

Beginning a breathing practice

man with flowers on grassStart a breathing practice with one or two rounds daily. Add two more rounds after you feel more comfortable with holding your breath. Spend time noticing and scanning. Once you are satisfied with each particular technique, you may begin adding stretches and movement. 

Practice a minimum of 15 minutes or six rounds with movement. This practice is a great way to increase your oxygen intake. Use this technique for how long it heals you. If you feel dizziness or more pain, get out of your first posture, lie on your back, and relax. Then breathe calmly again, stopping this particular session. You need at least 5 minutes after using this technique to relax and do a body scan.

Breathing is used in conjunction with other practices like:

  • Mindfulness meditation that guides you to focus on the present encourages breathing.
  • Visualization allows you to notice the pattern of your breathing and focuses your mind on a new path.
  • Guided imagery as you breath takes you on a journey, thus taking your mind off your worries.

Relaxation practices help bring your body back into balance and regulate the fight-or-flight-or-freeze-or- fawn etc. response we feel when we’re stressed. This relaxation is particularly helpful when you’re experiencing insomnia due to anxiety or worries about today or what might happen tomorrow. Busy thoughts can keep us awake.

Tips For Breathing Exercises

If you have never tried a breathing exercise, these tips will help you get through them. There isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do them. You want to be patient and do your best there is no perfection. 

Focus on your breathing during a breathing exercise; you are turning all your focus to the breathing sensations. Stop thinking about the pain and instead focusing on first inhaling a breath, experiencing the inhale of breath and how it feels in your lungs and chest. When you exhale, focus on blowing the air out and holding it for a few seconds.

Hold each breath for a few seconds. For inhaling and exhaling during your breathing exercises, you want to hold each one for just a couple of seconds. About 2-4 seconds for each one is usually an excellent place to start. This practice gives you time to focus on your breathing, and eventually, you won’t experience much pain while doing this.

I breathe in solutionsImagine a pattern, a new pattern to create a positive lifestyle habit. Another way to do a breathing exercise is to imagine each breath is a specific pattern, like a triangle or a square. When you inhale, imagine the breath is hitting each point on the shape before exhaling.

Today’s assignment, if you choose to accept it!

Use a simple breathing exercise. Sit in a quiet, calming environment and inhale and exhale, focusing on your breathing. Hold the breaths and do this for only a few minutes. Write in your journal what type of effect it had on you.

Conscious breathing techniques or exercises can help to rebalance your mind and body and boost your energy levels. The following mindful breathing exercises can reduce pain from strong emotions, energize, focus, and connect you. Learn these breathing exercises so you can use them interchangeably as needed. These are the first-line pain tools.

Regularly practicing these breathing exercises will help to increase your energy and vitality. 


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