breath is nourishing millions and millions of cells in our body.
Listen to its language,interpret its words and enter into the mystery of life.”
The most obvious activity of the 28 thousand daily breaths is the taking in of oxygen and the release of carbon dioxide. On a deeper level, the breath is active in bringing in positive nurturing energy and releasing negative energy that does not serve us. From the perspective of eastern practices the breath has the power to transform or move energy within the body and mind to promote healing, pain relief and a greater sense of well-being. Breath is even central to connecting with the spirit and nature.
Breath is a reflection of one’s relationship to the mind and body. The way one breathes tells a lot about the story of how one relates to life and the world around them.
Conscious breath work is good for both the mind and the body. Breathing exercises have been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Research has shown that deep breathing creates chemicals that calm and relax the body and reduce stress and pain. A regular practice of breathing exercises can reduce blood pressure, enhance clarity of the mind, increase respiratory and physical strength, endurance and performance, and stimulate the autoimmune system.
Mind-Body Breath Connection
Focused breathing can greatly assist in engaging the mind-body connection for relaxation, pain relief, calming and promoting health and well-being.
Breath is a vital component of the process of grounding and centering that connects you with your core and a sense of being empowered and in control. Through the intention of conscious breathing you can gain a greater awareness of the influence of breath on your body and mind. With mindful awareness and practice your breath will expand and deepen, and as it does so you will become more relaxed and pain free.
It is frequently helpful to start any Mind-Body intervention for pain management by first doing some deep breathing and relaxation techniques. The relaxation state you achieve through a focus on breath will help you to move into a deeper state of receptivity and ability to change.
Chronic Pain often results in a vicious cycle in which stress increases pain and pain increases the level of stress. Deep breathing can help you with relaxing and disconnecting from this debilitating downward pain/stress/pain cycle. A few minutes of deep breathing can do much to relax and calm you with the result that a relaxed and calmer state can help you be less affected by pain.
“B”Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment, know this isthe only moment.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Comprehensive Breathing Practices
There are a remarkable array of breathing techniques that you can learn and master to serve you for pain relief. You can be discerning in choosing breathing approaches and strategies that can serve you best in relaxation, calming and pain relief.
Take a Deep Breath
A familiar refrain when supporting someone who is “tied up in knots” is, “Take a deep breath.” To let go of stress, take a deep breath in and let it out. Slightly lifting the shoulders and dropping the head back can be added to the ‘in’ breath; and dropping the shoulders and letting the head slightly fall forward can be added to the ‘out’ breath.
When taking in and letting out a deep breath be aware of where you are feeling stress inside your body. Breathe into the area of stress. Sense grabbing hold of the stress with your breath and, on the exhale, breathe out the stress. Feel the letting go. You can purse your mouth and lips on the exhale, even making a slight sound of release.
Count to 10
Deepening the breath while counting to 10 is a quick and straight forward way to step back and be calm and let go of built up tension. Take nice deep breaths while counting to 10. If you are used to counting down from 10 to zero with trance work or in relaxation and visualization then you might count down from 10. Deep breathing and counting down from 10 can be used to focus on reducing pain and can be effective in dealing with tension, irritability and anger.
“B”Being under stress is like being stranded in a body of water. If you panic, it will cause you to flail around so that the water rushes into your lungs and creates further distress. Yet, by calmly collecting yourself and using controlled breathing you remain afloat with ease.”
Counting to 10 provides time and distraction to deal with stress and irritability before it turns to an outburst. Being aware of your deep breathing while counting to 10 will increase your focus and will help you ground a little more in the here and now. Deep breathing helps to inhibit the flight and fight response that accompany stress and irritability and anger. If you need to count a little higher than 10, do so while continuing to take deep slow mindful breaths that help to stimulate the relaxation response and move your attention into the present moment.
Change Through Breath
Gaining control of your current condition and promoting changes in the level of pain can be achieved through taking a deep breath, breathing that stimulates vagal tone, breathing while counting to 10, re-lax breathing and using breath to release tension from areas of pain. Headaches and pain can be reduced through breath that relaxes the neck and connecting breath with energy.
Vagal Tone Stimulation Through Breath
Vagus nerve stimulation triggers the release of enzymes and proteins like vasopressin and oxytocin. These natural bio-pharmaceuticals help with relaxation, calming and even with reducing the inflammation associated with the experience of pain. Vagus nerve stimulation can have an effect on both the processes of the brain as well as the organs of the body.
Vagus nerve stimulation creates a state called Vagal Tone. The vagus nerve drops down from the brain and reaches all of the primary organs of the body. Not only is vagal tone associated with relaxation and pain relief, it has been recognized for its benefit in promoting health and fighting illness in the organs and for improvements in the autoimmune system.
The key to vagal nerve stimulation is very slow breaths in and corresponding very slow breaths out.
- Take a breath in and pause for less than a second; take another breath in and pause for less than a second and now take a final deep breath all the way in and hold it for five to seven seconds.
- Now, let the breath out, taking six to eight seconds to fully empty your lungs and release the breath.
- To stimulate the vagus nerve and trigger vagal tone, repeat this breathing fully in and fully out seven times.
This diaphragmatic vagal tone breathing takes just a few minutes. It is easy to do any time of the day and is particularly helpful at times of elevated stress or heightened pain.
The simple coordinated repetition of “Foursquare” or “Box” breathing creates uniformity and balance in the breath, body and the mind. In foursquare breathing you will focus your deep breathing and exhalation in four different ways for a count of four in each area.
- Take a deep breath in, all the way down to the bottom of your belly for a slow count of four. You can hold both your hands on your lower belly to help you feel a full deep breath;
- Calmly and quietly hold the breath for a count of four;
- Release a full breath slowly for a count of four. Breathing out through pursed lips can increase the awareness of release through the breath;
- Pause your breathing while you count to four. This concludes the fourth side of your foursquare.
- Now begin to repeat the four times four square breathing cycle again.
- Foursquare breathing can be done in 10 cycles and completed in a few minutes. It can also be done for 10 minutes or for as long as helps you to relax. Use your relaxing with foursquare breathing to lower your threshold of pain.
“Drinking the energy of the universe, Breathing along with the Cosmos, with each breath I am reborn into a brand new existence.” Ilchi Lee