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What do you want to know about breathing? Answered in our newsletter



Respiratory Psychophysiology. About why "breath is life". 

     Pleasant happy feelings seldom create problems. – Swami Rama

Unpleasant unhappy feelings often create distractions including poor focus, concentration, memory, emotions and many, many things counter to living life and loving it.

Joseph Campbell uncovered consistent personality archetypes that due to chakra insights, imply generic ways of breathing. But there are cultural and functional biases in the way we use the breathing.  The western field of medicine addressing breathing and the human condition is called respiratory psychophysiology. It is in its infant stages. It has much to learn from the ancient eastern practices and how we can integrate them into our Western ways of being and doing.

I have read and heard several experts state that stress is the cause of approximately 80% of illness in our society. It even impacts grade school classrooms13.. Much of present day insight on stress and distress that Iím familiar with stems, I believe, from Hans Selye. Dr. Phil Neurnberger (1) states that Selyeís stress theory was "based on his laboratory research on sympathetic arousal , ignoring the less dramatic but equally powerful role of parasympathetic inhibition.  His theory cannot account for stress created by depression, passivity, or withdrawal.  Nor does it account for dietary or environmental stress". Neurenberger adds that "The fatigue you feel as you are depressed is not because of burnout. This low energy state is caused by a lack of activity, not by too much". Medical research shows that when you inhibit your internal systems, over a period of time, they begin to lose their capacity to function properly. If you donít use it you lose it.

According to Dr. L. C. Lum (8) futile breathing has profound effect on bodily functions and frequently results in chronic ill health". This includes chronic or intermittent fatigue; chest pains and palpitations suggestive of heart disease; dizziness; faintness; blackouts; visual disturbances; tingling and numbness in arms, legs, hands etc.; muscular cramps in neck, shoulders, back; stomach upsets, heartburn, gas; anxiety and panic attacks; feelings of unreality; depersonalization; hallucinations; sleep disturbances; nightmares; night sweats; even some symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, as well as angina and progressive damage to the heart."

Breathing affects and reflects much of what we think and do. There is a direct relationship between breathing and aliveness. Hold your breath and try to feel angry or happy. You canít.  Too little breath is correlated with passivity, sadness and depression. The breath can be purposefully utilized to alter mental and emotional states. Postures, tensions, environment all effect the breath.

Less obvious disorders related to breathing, including menopausal hot flashes and agoraphobia are highlighted in Fried's "Psychology and Physiology of Breathing" and "The Breath Connection" ; Dr. Saul Hendlerís, "The Oxygen Breakthrough", and "Psychological and Physiological Approaches to Breathing Disorders" (8). Included in the in the breathing assessment portion of the Secrets of Optimal Breathing manual are  few hundred  maladies often related to les than optimal functioning  breathing.

Faulkner discovered in 1941 that with positive suggestion the diaphragm moved up and down by more than three inches; it moved less than an inch with negative thoughts. It should be noted here that we have at least three major diaphragms that need to expand upward and downward; thoracic, pharyngeal, and perineal. Postures, trauma and chronic tension adversely affect their function. "Emotional Anatomy" by Stanley Keleman provides additional insight about these concepts.

Dr. Gay Hendricks (9) writes that "in 1951, in one of the first major studies of breathing, a doctor named Clausen noted that the neurotic individuals he was studying tended to have a sharp transition between their inhalation and exhalation. Something about the traumas of life seems to interfere with our ability to make a smooth transition from the sympathetic to parasympathetic breath".  Remember that Neurenberg refers to sympathetic as essentially "arousal" and parasympathetic as essentially "inhibition". But inhibition does not paint a clear enough picture of the PNS. More about that in future articles.

Magda Proskauer in1968 (8) reminds us that "our breathing patterns reflect our inner situation". "Complete chest breathing occurs only at times of maximum effort....On the other hand, those that cannot open the chest are often anxious, inhibited, self-conscious, and tend toward feelings of inferiority".

Gay Hendricks (9) shares a conversation he had with Dr. Richard Alpert of Harvard (Ram Dass) in which Dr. Alpert told him about his psychotherapy treatment of anxiety. After 10 years he understood it, but he still had it. Dr. Alpert went to India and after practicing a breathing exercise for six months his anxiety was greatly reduced. 

Included in studies of physiological and psychological measures of experimentally induced emotional arousal, McCaul et al (8) found in 1979 that voluntary retardation of breathing reduced physiological arousal (decreased electrodermal response and increased finger-pulse volume). Thayer et al (8) in 1984 measured Pco2, finger temperature, and anxiety prior to a brief period of voluntary hyperventilation. Post-test measurements revealed a significant drop in PCO2, a significant drop in finger temperature, and a significant increase in anxiety -- findings that demonstrate clearly the emotional arousal elicited by hyperventilation. Biofeedback can routinely confirm this phenomenon.

Dr. Alan Hymes, a thoracic surgeon and Psychologist Dr. Phil Neurnberger (10), found in 1980 that of 152 heart attack victims ALL were high chest  breathers.

Lie detectors exploit the remarkable consistency between thoughts and breathing patterns. Breathing can also influence thoughts. Common sense tells us that if you hyperventilate to the point of dizziness you will often think less positive thoughts. "The Breath Connection" (7) sites many cases of this phenomenon.  Panic attacks are controllable through the way we breathe.  The "expectancy effect" in the production of panic attacks described by Ley (8) can be explained by hyperventilation theory (the "expectancy effect" correlates the expectation of a panic with its subsequent occurrence).

From Tibet comes an exercise which reveals that body posturing clearly influences how you breathe. Performing this exercise has been shown to neutralize severe panic responses, partly because it forces the breath downward and it disengages and relaxes the perineal diaphragm. A Tibetan breathing exercise called co-meditation or cross breathing  is taught to people when dying to help them transition peacefully.

Barios, et. al. (1981) (8) sites that "test anxiety is the most pervasive complaint among school age children." Again, anxiety is most dependably controlled by optimal breathing patterns. 

I have trained seven year olds to breathe and reduced their anxiety while increasing their cooperation and quality of their experience in the classroom. At  workshops I facilitated at a local county jail, maximum security prisoners began to learn to use their breath to control their anger and drug and alcohol cravings. I showed them how to access their deep parasympathetic while increasing their energy and simultaneously balancing the two.

In a 1984 study of 1,300 college students tested for test anxiety, Cappo and Holmes (8) , discovered that test anxiety was controlled by means of voluntary prolongation of the expiratory phase of the respiratory cycle relative to the inspiratory phase (brief inhalation and prolonged exhalation). This type of controlled breathing caused a reduction in physiological and psychological arousal induced by the threat of electric shock. Breathing exercises reduced 100% of the test anxiety in 75% of the studied population. The autonomic nervous system can be trained to act like a team of horses. The breath is the only portion that can be consciously controlled. Place it as the lead horse and the ANS can, in varying degrees, eventually follow.

There is a breathing exercise contained in almost every self help book. But many of the exercises focus on the belly breath which is extremely unreliable and inefficient compared to a complete breath (not yoga complete but the real complete breath) consisting of the front, back, sides of the belly and rib breath.  Most people are not inspired enough to continue the confusing variety of so called breathing experts, for long enough to benefit from them.  Many others are improperly trained so that they never learn what it feels like to "come home" inside themselves.  Unbalanced breathers  are often difficult to motivate, especially when they have to pay the bills for retraining.

Dr. Erik Peper of San Francisco State College has discovered that the most effective way for people to learn to breathe better is through modeling of the action by a skilled therapist or coach. (11). In the foreword (8), Chandra Patel, M.D. of the University College London states that "the two components subjects feel they have benefited from most, and that they are willing to continue using, are awareness of stress and breathing exercises". 

What with modern medicine's  lack of understanding of the importance of proper breathing, and the lack of encouragement from the majority of medical doctors, so called human nature makes it unlikely that most people, except those strongly motivated, will comply with a time consuming breathing practice olver any length of meaningful time.

A large aspect of feeling joy, inner strength and management of stress is about options and the freedom of the breath. When the breath is inhibited or locked up our options become limited.  We cannot access them if our breathing is "stuck". Anyone stuck up in a tree or against a cliff during a climb or in another state of panic will attest to this. 

I submit that the breath has been greatly overlooked in its power to increase life force and aliveness, foster a positive attitude (increased endorphin production), maintain emotional balance and minimize or eliminate stress. From the very outset of a stressful situation or when we run out of all other choices, the breath can be consciously engaged. That is where the stress can and will end and pleasure and joy can appear. By putting more breath into life we may well make our orgasms more intense, our food more flavorful, and our eyesight improve.

In addition to the vital role of breathing as a mechanism of gas exchange, a key aspect of breathing is the interaction between breathing and emotions, cognition and behavior. Ley (8) states that "Breathing may well be the link between psychology and physiology". Others refer to this link as the Mind/Body/Spirit connection. Much of the need for psychotherapy stems from stress and trauma. The distorted breathing patterns set during stress and trauma need to be dissolved in a gentle and replicable manner. Any negative emotion you can breathe through, loses its grip on you.9
Stanley Kelleman would say to "disorganize and reorganize (which in many instances can both be done at the same time).

Included in studies of physiological and psychological measures of experimentally induced emotional arousal, McCaul et al (8) found in 1979 that voluntary retardation of breathing reduced physiological arousal (decreased electrodermal response and increased finger-pulse volume). Thayer et al (8) in 1984 measured PCO2, finger temperature, and anxiety prior to a brief period of voluntary hyperventilation. Post-test measurements revealed a significant drop in PCO2, a significant drop in finger temperature, and a significant increase in anxiety -- findings that demonstrate clearly the emotional arousal elicited by hyperventilation. Biofeedback can routinely confirm this phenomenon.

This all begs a look see into why I recommend so often singing and how well we speak

Do you raise your shoulders when you take a deep breath; Are you unable to sing or speak so that you enjoy that and others can easily understand you; Feel tightness across the chest; Does it get harder to swallow when you take a big breath, then hold your breath, and try to swallow; Do your neck muscles bulge out when you take a deep breath; Asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, stuttering; Does your breathing feel stuck, jerky, shallow, labored, or weak; Is your jaw tight; Energy low; Lump in throat; Get lots of headaches; Catch yourself not breathing; Yawn or sigh a lot; Ticklish; Hyperventilate; Depressed; Hypertensive; Stiff neck; Sleep disturbances; Heart disease; Research and experience lead me to believe these are most often signs of chronic accessory breathing muscle activity which comprise some of the over 130+ possibly critical issues related to how well be breathe

We can comply with necessary non profit status requirement and Iím noting this to you to see if anyone out there thinks there is enough merit for us to spend considerable time in the finalization of a firm and clear proposal.

Our school for lay and health professionals. SThe purpose of this program is to train asthmatics, emphysema victims, psychotherapists, therapy clients, grade school children and prison inmate services personal in Optimal for an increased quality of life. Also to train those interested therapists and teachers to train others.

Results are verifiable by industry standard biofeedback monitoring devices.

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Reference material

1. The Quest for Personal Power Dr. Phil Neurnberger

2. Health and Healing, Dr. Andrew Weil

3. Quantum Healing, Deepak Chopra

4. Eric Peper as quoted in The Breathing Book, Donna Farhi

5. Dr. Gabriel Cousens, audiotape.

6. The Oxygen Breakthrough, Dr. Saul Hendler

7. The Breath Connection, 7B.The Psychology and Physiology of Breathing. Dr Robert Fried

8. Behavioral and Psychological Approaches to Breathing Disorders, Timmons and Ley

9. Conscious Breathing, Gay Hendricks (It includes 10 sidebars donated by myself).

10.A study called "Breathing Patterns and Heart Attack victims" published in the Research Bulletin of the Himalayan International Institute 2 (2) (1980)10-12

11. ("Comparison of Diaphragmatic Training Methods". Proceedings of the Twenty-first Annual Meeting of the Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback" Wheat Ridge, Co.AAPB, 1009157-59).

12. Critical and hidden factors in optimal breathing, Michael Grant White, LMT, DD, NE.

13. A report on teaching 16 first grade children a simple breathing exercise.

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The breathing improvement techniques, practices and products outlined in this publication are extremely gentle, and should, if carried out as described, be beneficial
to your overall physical and psychological health. If you have any serious medical or psychological problem, however, such as heart disease, high blood pressure,
cancer, mental illness, or recent abdominal or chest surgery, you should consult your health professional before undertaking these practices.