Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Every Breath You Take

Always on the lookout for the latest and easiest forms of therapy, I chanced upon this: to improve your mental and physical health you should improve your breathing technique.

Sumathi Reddy reports the groundbreaking discovery in the Wall Street Journal:

Breathing and controlling your breath is one of the easiest ways to improve mental and physical health, doctors and psychologists say. Slow, deep and consistent breathing has been shown to have benefits in treating conditions ranging from migraines and irritable bowel syndrome to anxiety disorders and pain.

“If you train yourself to breathe a little bit slower it can have long-term health benefits,” said Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Deep breathing activates a relaxation response, he said, “potentially decreasing inflammation, improving heart health, boosting your immune system and maybe even improving longevity,”

Breathe more slowly, and breathe from the diaphragm. One understands that breathing techniques are part of yoga, but now psychologists are getting into the game:

Belisa Vranich, a New York City-based clinical psychologist, has been conducting breathing workshops around the country for just over a year. Among her biggest clients: corporate managers eager to learn how to better manage stress.

Dr. Vranich says she instructs clients to breathe with their abdomen. On the inhale, this encourages the diaphragm to flatten out and the ribs to flare out. Most of us by instinct breathe vertically, using our chest, shoulders and neck, she says.

Abdominal, or diaphragmatic, breathing is often taught in yoga and meditation classes. Experts say air should be breathed in through the nose, and the exhale should be longer than the inhale. Dr. Vranich recommends trying to breathe this way all the time but other experts say it is enough to use the technique during stressful or tense times or when it is necessary to focus or concentrate.

So, take a deep breath, exhale slowly. It might not cure everything that ails you. It probably won’t. And yet, it is certainly not going to hurt you. The possible benefit is largely incommensurate with the effort it takes to learn this new habit.

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