Caring for the muse
Types of Breathing
copyright Leslie Owen Wilson
Learning is finding out you already know.
Doing is demonstrating that you know it.
Teaching is reminding others that they know it just as well as you.
You are all learners, doers, teachers. You teach best what you most need to learn.
Richard Back, Illusions
Charlesworth, E.A. and Nathan, R. G. (1984) Stress management: A comprehensive guide to wellness
Chang, E.C. (Translator) (1985) Knocking at the gate and other healing exercises from China
Cohen, K.S. (1997) The way of Qigong: The Art and science of Chinese energy healing
Dennison, P.E. and Dennison, G. E. (1986) Brain gym
George, M. (1998) Learn to relax: A practical guide to easing tension and conquering stress
Hendricks, G. (1995) Conscious breathing: Breathwork for health, stress release, and personal mastery. (Dr. Hendricks has written or co-authored many books on living, loving, and working better and on types of meditative or calming experiences. One of his most popular is The centering book.)
Leonard, G. and Murphy, M. (1995) The life we are given: A long term program for realizing the potential of the body, mind heart and soul ( George Leonard has also made a great video in which he explains and illustrates the physical exercises entitles The Tao of practice)
Lerner, H. (1985) Stress breakers
Naparstek, B. (1994) Staying well with guided imagery: How to harness the power of your imagination for health and healing (Belleruth has a number of audio tapes with recorded guided imagery experiences. Her voice is most soothing and melodious.)
The Importance of Breath
Warning! Please check with your medical or health practitioner before you try these. If you have a medical condition or are prone to hyperventilating or dizziness, these exercises may not be for you! If you become dizzy while trying these exercises -- STOP immediately and sit down and rest.
These techniques have been collected from a number of different sources. Please see the resources list at the end of this page for more information. Although, I practice the following techniques, I am not a medical doctor and disclaim any liability for the use of these ideas.
We are a nation of shallow breathers! Yes, we are! We sit and don't breathe and then wonder why we are pooped, or stressed, or can't think, or why we are cranky. Many of us hold tension in our shoulders and when we are working intensely we breath at more shallow levels. This is not good.
The great philosopher Emmanuel Kant seemed to instinctively know that breathing aided mental activity and that life had to be balanced. He was known to go on daily vigorous walks, waving his walking stick about in the air, and taking deep breaths.
While waving your arms about may look silly, moving raised arms while briskly walking or dancing lifts the diaphragm and forces you to breath deeply. Try it. It is invigorating. Of course watch and make sure you have enough space so you don't pop someone in the nose.
There are many different types of breathing techniques. These are illustrated both on video tapes and in self-help books. Generally the differences between the extremes of calming breathing exercises and invigorating breathing are the movements of the abdomen, the diaphragm and the exhaling processes. In calming breathing the abdomen moves outward as the lungs and diaphragm expand. The exhaling breaths are slow, trying to exhale more than you have taken in. In its most extreme for invigorating breathing the lungs expand and the abdomen is sucked inward creating a type of vacuum as the long breaths are held and then exhaled quickly. This is supposed to raise your metabolism and create higher energy levels.
1. Serious breaths -- The cosmic breath, or hey, I am out of control and need help type of breathing: Minimum -- 6-8 times. Close your eyes and try to relax your facial, neck and shoulder muscles by tensing them and then relaxing them. Breathe deeply through your nose and out through your mouth with long, slow exhalations. As you breathe out, count backwards in your mind from ten to one. Feel the breath deep in your abdomen. Create a mental note to go into this form of breathing in times of crisis, stress, or during the times you are hurried or feel very agitated. If possible, go and sit somewhere and say to yourself "breathe," or write yourself a cue on your hand, or leave post-its and notes around the house, the office in the car. (And, "NO!", of course you can't close your eyes in the car, but you can at a stop light or if you are stuck in traffic, or you can pull over to the side of the road.) Create a new habit. If you cannot go to sleep at night, try doing this 16 times. Remember to quite you mind, think of becoming like limp rubber, or of melting into a puddle of blue-green calm as you do the breathing exercises.
2. Belly breaths -- or I need to relax a little breathing: Minimum: 3-5 times in rapid succession. To center down before a meal or when your feeling mildly stressed, place your hands on your abdomen and fill your lungs full of air with a deep belly breath -- exhale in a succession of short soft puffs -- rather like keeping a balloon in the air.
3. Don't go negative! -- Intervention breathing -- Minimum: 3 breaths -- As Gay Hendricks points out, it is important to catch yourself when you are experiencing negative thoughts or when something negative has happened to trigger a fight or flight response. You must create relaxing intervention breathing as soon as you feel yourself flooded with negativity, self-doubt, anxiety, or fear. Take three big, deep breaths and change your body position and give yourself a big all over shake. Let whatever has happened go. Envision it leaving your area as you shake your shoulders and arms.
4. Wake me up, I'm in a slump breathing: Minimum -- 3-4 short breaths plus one long. If one set doesn't work, try three sets. If you feel like you are losing energy, take in 3-4 short but deep in and out breaths. Follow these with a long cosmic breath. This works well with stimulating acupressure points or with a cross-crawl or hemisphere switching exercise.
5. Hey, I really, really need to wake up breathing - Minimum --1-5 minutes. Warning - if you feel yourself getting dizzy STOP and rest and breath slowly. This type of breathing needs to be done while you are walking or standing. You will need some room to roam and may wish to warn those near you as to what you are going to do -- in the event that they might think that you have lost it. Lung capacity is increased by arm movements. Walk about brandishing your arms or one or more objects of equal weight - a cane, wooden spoon, baton, paper towel tubes, pencils, etc. Create expressive arm movements like you are attacking an imaginary foe or dueling with Basil Rathbone. Or if you wish to be more sedate, simply stand and do a horizontal figure eights in the air, first with one hand, then the other, and then with both together.
6. Raise your metabolism breathing - Inhale deeply through your nose pulling your diaphragm up and sucking in your abdomen at the same time. Hold it and count slowly to 3-5. This should create a type of vacuum. Exhale quickly through your mouth. If this makes you feel light headed, STOP immediately.
est.1997, updated 2005