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NEW SURVEY:
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Breath Holding (including email apnea)

Beautiful day, unfolding
Uncluttering the mind, unmolding
Even the bird song, no scolding
This moment of breath, no holding...
Amana Aile Shebar   breathe holding

 

Do you hold your breath when you are trying to put a key in a door? Do you hold your breath when getting up from a chair? Do you hold your breath when trying to remember something?

The odds are that your parents were not breathing “properly” at all! And if the child grows up to become a musician, he or she may have to un-learn certain breathing habits and re-train their breathing mechanism if they want to excel in their chosen vocation.  Just about everyone lives with sub-optimal breathing habits and breathing patterns. In fact, it has been shown that poor breathing habits are an underlying cause of many health problems.

A popular idea about “proper” breathing—with which I agree in general—is that we should breathe through our nose.

When breathing is withheld and/or high chest, breathing muscles are constantly being over-activated...the head is pulled forward, and the shoulders are hunched up and pulled forward...and a common observation is increased sway in the lower back, and the pelvis is tilted forward, simultaneously as the back is overextended, resulting in a misalignment of the entire body. This may cause pain in the adjacent muscles of the back and pelvis. The possibility for free and deep effortless breathing is impossible. What to do.

Many do not think they hold their breath but on closer observation discover that, they do. The speed bump is largely responsible for this. They block their breathing cycle and/or shallow breathe in many situations (stress included) but are often unaware that they are doing that.  Attempts at effortful deep concentration, or focus can cause it; uncertainty about a course of action often equals hesitancy in action and breathing; when attempting a new task one may breath-hold until they have enough time to master it with ease, PLUS the mastery may never occur nor the good breathing return.  Many simple day to day actions can invite breath holding like bending to tie your shoe; fastening your bra; pulling open a stuck door; trimming your beard; bending to get something from the lower shelf of the refrigerator; reaching up to pick a piece of fruit from a tree branch, sitting at a computer for hours. It is not breath holding per se that is the problem. It is excessive breath holding. Breath holding, along with mouth breathing invite episodes of stopping breathing during sleep. See article about email apnea

"Holding our breath during the conscious state is no different from the problem of sleep apnea with episodes of not breathing--except for the fact that the highest consumption of oxygen occurs during REM sleep as we noted above and sleep time is therefore the time when we can least afford a cessation of breathing." So You Didn't Go To Medical School. Read this. Joseph L  Borkson, MD

CHILDREN AND BREATH HOLDING
As children we hold our breath to control the level of fear, anger or even love or excitement.  This becomes chronic and if nothing is done about it, it stays with many through their entire lives. I sang solo for my entire student body at age 11 and then received several beatings and lost my ability to sing. http://www.breathing.com/articles/mypath.htm  For 40 years after that I yawned constantly, felt tightness in my chest, was often anxious, could not "hold on to/contain" high energy, was always in a hurry and could not catch my breath.  I could not sing any more either.  

From Arthur Strauss, DDS, OSB -  "Consider the impact of breath holding creating adrenaline as an aid to breathing and focusing on the task on hand. Also consider a posture change negating or turning off a usual postural compensation that is successfully being used to keep the throat opened by counter balancing a slack tongue. This will allow closing of the throat (induced apnea) unless the compensation of increased adrenaline takes over. Could this action be a subconscious shift in compensations towards one utilizing more adrenaline? Can it lead to becoming an adrenaline junkie?".

You do not have to be traumatized to lose your breathing. Even "normal" parenting can create chronic tension in a sensitive child. As an infant or child, hearing NO!! when you are about to pull a pot of boiling water on top of your unsuspecting little head, or DON'T!! loudly as you totter toward a steep flight of steps or throw your food across the room for the tenth time stimulates the "startle reflex" that Thomas Hanna talked about. Repeated often enough and this sets in to causes your entire body to remain tightened up to foster potentially very irregular breathing patterns.

To get an example of how this effects your breathing, tighten up every muscle in your body.  Now try to breathe in.  Can't do it very well can you? This is a severe example of what has happened.  Do this tightening enough times and trust me, you will not breathe very well even when you try to relax. 

Holding your breath when you perform stomach crunches may cause your blood pressure to spike higher than it normally would during resistance training. Does it help create a stroke?

The eyes MUST have oxygen.  One can create eyesight issues by holding the breath long and often enough.

SO CALLED "HEALTHY BREATHING" TECHNIQUE
A leading medical doctor advocates breath holding exercises. He is also about 40 pounds overweight and recommend foods that many are allergic to. Go figure. Breath holding exercises may relax initially but over time restrict natural breathing. Most of us got into emotional, energetic and personal power breathing trouble in the first place because of some sort of breath holding. The breath holding "hunger-for-air" illness model approach conditions the body to function with less air and this can have temporary benefits but I have not seen it to increase a coordinated lung volume, breathing ease, and nervous system balance to any great degree.  I believe that if you breathe bigger, easier and in balance, the oxygen cost of breathing goes down.  If you hold back your deepest easiest effortless breathing, if you inappropriately interrupt the natural ebb and flow of healthy respiration, the oxygen cost of breathing goes UP. 

EMAIL APNEA?
In the November 23, 2009 Huffington Post, well known writer Linda Stone in her "Just Breathe: Building the case for Email Apnea" stated that "Dr. Margaret Chesney, at the National Institute of Health (NIH). Research conducted by Chesney and NIH research scientist, Dr. David Anderson, demonstrated that breath holding contributes significantly to stress-related diseases. The body becomes acidic, the kidneys begin to re-absorb sodium, and as the oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and nitric oxide (NO) balance is undermined, our biochemistry is thrown off.

Breath-holding and hyperventilating disturb our body's balance of oxygen, CO2, and NO. Nitric oxide, not to be confused with the nitrous oxide used in dental offices, plays an important role in our health. From a briefing document prepared for the Royal Society and Association of British Science Writers, Pearce Wright explains, "The immune system uses nitric oxide in fighting viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, and tumors. Nitric oxide transmits messages between nerve cells and is associated with the processes of learning, memory, sleeping, feeling pain, and, probably, depression. It is a mediator in inflammation and rheumatism."

YOGA AND BREATH HOLDING
The so called yoga breathing count where you breathe in hold the breath for several counts and breathe out and hold the several counts are in my opinion training us to hold our breathing even more than we do already. Breath holding can give some relief from hyperventilation but at the cost of tightening the stomach muscles, worsening the startle response and over time making inviting shallow breathing. I understand the Hale Clinic in the UK used to teach a Russian breath holding technique for asthma and they no longer do that.  I often hear of yoga teachers and personal power experts advocating a pattern of say the 2:4:6:4 ratio; 2 inhale: 4 hold : 6 exhale: 4 hold; or 2:4:16:4 ratio; or whatever numbers they think are good or fit their ego. I totally disagree and caution everyone to not hold their breath nor try such difficult lengths of breathing extensions. Your diaphragm can support the voice best when it keeps moving.  Listen to people's voices.  See if they sound deep, full and resonant or thin, dry or raspy.

Note the figures below and the corresponding emotions. Breath holding often distorts the energy flow of healthy breathing.

I often see chronic migraines, seizures, anxiety, ADHD, Autism cases that to me are associated with various forms of breath holding or holding back. Breath holding causes us to tighten our throats causing or worsening vocal dysfunction as well as restricting the thyroid and thymus glands (thyroid = energy and metabolism: thymus = T cells).  These techniques may cause tension.  It is to me a HUGE mistake for most people.  I often see its damaging results in some Pilates teachers and their students that attend my training for people with speech problems.  Many teachers swear they are doing it right, that is until they open up their minds enough to let me work on them and show them where the deepest easiest breathing is.

As long as you disregard the oxygen cost of breathing you overlook the fundamentals of enhanced reflexive natural breathing and its innate vitalizing and healing potential. 

Using breath holding techniques, one tightens up the upper chest, diaphragm, throat, jaw, tongue and  face. 

These tensions add to or create vision and voice problems and gasping on the inhale. The body gets less oxygen and may build up excessive carbon dioxide (for some this can be initially beneficial but with potential long term repercussions) . Many become more inclined to mouth breathe and then snore into sleep problems due to the sudden and intense need for air that breath holding causes.

Breath holding techniques to raise CO2 levels may cause chronic tensions and vocal restriction.  This is why I often use a special biofeedback instrument to monitor CO2 levels during breathing development trainings because I occasionally ask them to slow their breathing for a specified time and want to make certain this does not throw off their optimal CO2/O2 balance.

Most of us have excessive tension in our present day to day living. So with breath-holding to increase CO2, the tissues may get more oxygen but due to the tensions, the oxygen cost of breathing may skyrocket. This is often a delicate balance best monitored by a skilled health professional trained in Optimal Breathing Techniques.

ATHLETES AND BREATH HOLDING 
Sports related asthma is becoming epidemic. I understand that a few swimming coaches train students to not breathe. Your cells, particularly your muscle cells, undergo a chain of reactions known as cell respiration. "Respiration" in this sense, does not directly mean breathing, but rather a breakdown of the body's main source of energy, glucose. (sugar.)

Your cells can perform two types of respiration: aerobic (meaning "with oxygen") and anaerobic (meaning "without oxygen"). Aerobic respiration is the usual and preferred way for your cells to produce energy, but when you hold or in any way make your breath less so, you are depriving your body of oxygen and your cells have to resort to anaerobic respiration.

When that happens, the energy-producing process is kicked over to an alternate pathway called lactic acid fermentation. That burning, sore sensation you feel right after vigorous activity? That's a build-up of lactic acid -- it hurts.

To compare you could say that aerobic respiration yields 40 ATP, adenosine triphosphate. This is the molecule your cells use for most of their energy. Lactic acid fermentation yields 2 ATP.

Fermentation will happen to some of your cells when you workout. But as I understand it, when you hold your breath, this lactic acid fermentation occurs in most of your oxygen-deprived cells, and it makes that burst of energy you want very short lived -- not to mention potentially painful. 

So, make sure your breathing is as big and easy as it can be. Then go have a great workout. We counsel to undo the tension and restriction from physical work(outs) with our 176 DVD. There are several breathing oriented  weight training equipment guides outlined in the Secrets of Optimal Natural Breathing Manual .

Email induced sleep apnea

BLOOD PRESSURE
Holding your breath when you perform stomach crunches may cause your blood pressure to spike higher than it normally would during resistance training. In a study, people who voluntarily held their breath during abdominal exercises had higher peak blood pressure elevations compared to when they breathed during the exercises. Then there is Valsalvas maneuver where the people hold their breath to force out a bowel movement and die on the toilet from a heart attack.

EYESIGHT & BREATH HOLDING
"Don't hold your breath while using your eyes"
The eyes MUST have oxygen.  One can turn oneself temporarily blind by holding the breath long enough.  Breathe freely; not studied, controlled, or even thoughtful breathing, but easy breathing such as a dog enjoys when it throws itself on the floor to sleep. Breathing exercises can be very helpful but should send one towards better breathing. Many do not.

In my eye-training studio I once worked with a cataract case whose vision we had improved by our method to such an extent that I called in a doctor, who worked sympathetically with us, to examine the eyes with his powerful ophthalmoscope.  One eye the doctor found to be entirely cleared of cataract.  The lens of the other eye was still a little too cloudy to see the retina - to get the red reflex.  'Take a long breath' I said to the pupil.  The doctor exclaimed aloud that that single breath had temporarily cleared the last vestige of film in the eye, so that the retina could be seen readily.  Each time the pupil remembered to breathe, the remaining shreds of sediment were dissipated.  Each time he held his breath a little murk clouded the lens once more.  If deep breathing will do this for a seriously affected eye, one can realize how great the benefit to normal or nearly normal vision."  "How to improve your sight" by Margaret Darst Corbett. 

From Optimal Breathing School Core Faculty Member Donna Gross.

"About breath holding effecting the vision? It seems to all come down to staying relaxed and comfortable. Clear vision needs constant movement to function correctly. There is a perpetual vibration that, in effect, causes the illusion that everything you are viewing is in a state of movement. This oppositional movement of the world in front of your nose, is essential to clarity. As soon as we hold still, the vision fails to remain clear and the mind fails to recognize the input. That is why blinking and breathing and brushing your visual field with your nose are the first steps to good vision. When we hold the breath, we hold still. This effects the vision immediately. Also, less O2 exchange effects the vision immediately. The tension needed to hold the breath can also diminish clarity. Happy eyes work effortlessly, and a generous easy deep breath relaxes the eye muscles, leaving them free to vibrate effortlessly, follow your attention and interest, and support your amazing imagination. DG

Latest studies related to breath holding pdf.

BREATH HOLDING AND SELF HARM
Question: To the Panel: Is it possible to hold your breath long enough to harm your brain, harmed due to lack of oxygen (or other cause)? I ask because I like to snorkel rather than scuba dive, but I still appreciate diving down as far as I can, and often push myself to the limit on depth and time length. So at what time (or ratio), if any, would I be hurting myself? : Benjamin H

Dear Benjamin: rather than holding your breath when snorkeling, how about exhaling, that is with closed lips blow bubbles very gently for as long as you can while you are under. I would suggest that you come up for air if possible before it feels uncomfortable. I don't have hard data on how long you could go for, but certainly you don't want to push it so far you may  become unconscious. We have all heard the CPR & Red Cross quotes that you can become anoxic - lose significant O2 supply to the brain within 3 min, but that is when you are holding your breath. That is very different from developing prolonged exhalation ,which can gradually increase with practice and is best done in your comfort zone. Mike White has many valuable suggestions on that on his web site.  Sincerely, Margaret Leong, M.A.,P.T.

Advice from a reader.

"The issue is about conditioning to the body, if you dive a lot you tend not to feel uncomfortable but euphoric on rising to the surface.  The most significant piece of advice for free diving is never do it alone, if one is doing short times the above advice is fine, from 10 – 20 seconds or so.  From the above question it would seem he is trying to push the time limits and times. Free divers can hold for 5mins on a dive and the method outlined is not good for doing that if that is what he wishes to do.  
 
The advice is my opinion and should be along the lines of; 
 
1.  Breath holding is not advised, (due to potentially damaging health). increased risk of a cerebral stroke, or cardiac incidents may be due to the blood pressure spikes during breath holding. A range of cognitive and motor disturbances post apnea including, language production disturbances (‘Mooglie’ – Canadian freedive team 2002), motor control problems (‘sambas’), shallow water blackouts, difficulty with concentration or keeping track of time, feeling “fuzzy in the head” and not being able to recall events immediately prior to the breath holding activity. 
2.  He should avoid not breathing in any way, (even if that is by slowly breathing out and not breathing in), if he does choose to do it then it should be for short periods such as 45-60 seconds but not more due to problems with shallow water blackout.
3.  If he does wish to increase his underwater time he should research free diving thoroughly and take a course if he chooses to, although you would not recommend it for the reasons that you outline on your site.
4.  Freediving is a dangerous activity and can result in black out and death if not done properly.
 
I would think that that strikes a good balance between the two opinions and will keep him safe in the water if he chooses to breath hold dive."

Eliminate chronic unintentional breath holding. Remove the speed bump. Recover from constricting breath holding.  Develop your breathing now

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"breathing test" are the key words.
The icon
Long  form test

The Optimal Breathing Times 

Free Email Newsletter

Subscribe now

The Optimal Breathing Store 
Products and self-help program sets

Browse our catalog

"Breathing is the FIRST place not the LAST place one should investigate when any disordered energy presents itself."

Sheldon Saul Hendler, MD Ph.D., The Oxygen Breakthrough


"He who breathes most air lives most life."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
 


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