ASTHMA: Shallow Breathing To Tune Your Body
We are now at the position where we can discuss more exactly the process that if followed will normalize your breathing. We have seen in earlier chapters that our breathostat or respiratory centre has somehow become set at the wrong level.
How did they become set at the wrong level? One major factor is the false idea of the usefulness of deep breathing, which is often combined with deep breathing exercises. A big long deep breath with a good stretch is good to relax. If you do it repeatedly, it will turn your breathostat the wrong way.
Another factor which increases breathing intensity is over eating, especially high protein. Protein will increase your depth of breathing considerably. Animal proteins in particular are capable of producing powerful changes. If we use dairy products as an example, we can see the effect of all foods.
It is commonly known that consumption of milk products tends to promote the formation of mucus. This is almost correct. What happens is that the milk causes an increase in the depth of breathing, which in turn causes a loss of CO2. We now know that reduced CO2 will tell the mucus factories [glands] in our airpipes and sinus cavity to produce more mucus. So the problem is not with the poor cow, but simply that the high protein levels cause an increase in breathing.
Since the industrial revolution the amount of protein consumed has steadily increased, along with so called diseases like asthma and hypertension.
Other factors that increase the breathing include lack of physical work, narcotics, and exposure to many chemical agents.
As your breathostat is exposed to greater levels of breathing and lower CO2 levels, it becomes conditioned to a lower level. Then further deep breathing, perhaps as part of a fitness or health training, can turn it even lower. This training effect continues until such a low breathostat level is reached that your body takes defensive action to avoid a catastrophe. In asthmatics it restricts the breathing.
It is a relatively simple strategy to reset your breathostat by exposing it to higher levels of CO2 than it is used to. This is the opposite of the approach which lowered the breathostat CO2 level, which was to expose it to lower levels of CO2.
We want an approach that will:
a. Be easy and comfortable to do,
b. Be able to be done anywhere by anyone,
c. Be combined with other tasks so we do not need to take time from your busy day.
The most effective way to do this is to use an indirect approach. This means not trying to control the size or length of holding of each breath, as that requires huge concentration and very careful training. It does mean using simple muscle relaxation which will make the depth of breathing less, and requires no control of the rate of breathing which is difficult. The key instruction is simple and short.
Shallow Breathing is: A gradual reduction in the depth of breathing, by relaxing the diaphragm and breathing muscles, until a tiny shortage of air is felt and then maintained.
There are several key points. The first is that we are reducing the depth of breathing. When we do this the frequency or rate at which we breathe increases by itself. This is correct, and the rate should not be interfered with. That would be direct control of the breathing, which is far harder to maintain, and usually leads to a huge shortage of air which is followed by gasping. This is not the goal. So reduce the depth only.
The next point is that the way we do it is by relaxing the breathing muscles, not holding them. The more relaxed they are the more still you become. The more still you become the less deeply you can breathe. [If you become still by holding or tensing you will develop sharp pains in your ribs as the muscles complain.]
The other key point is that our goal is to develop a training that can be done anywhere, is comfortable so it will not be avoided, and can be combined with other tasks. The way to this goal is to allow only a tiny shortage of air to develop. It is all that you need. If it feels awful and suffocating you have created a large shortage, and should relax and start again. If you feel no shortage at all, become more and more still until you do.
As part of this process, recognize that there is no rule that says you have to be breathing all the time. If you find yourself breathing away with no real need or desire to stop.
An alternative way to start your shallow breathing is to do a measurement pause without holding your nose. This really means that you stop breathing until you feel a tiny shortage of air. All you have to do then is be relaxed and still enough to maintain that shortage.
Am I Doing It Properly?
This is the most common and natural question. You are shallow breathing if you feel a tiny shortage of air, and you are comfortable. A shortage of air is a sensation that you would like to take an extra breath, but to maintain the shortage do not. If you are suffocating, you have too great a shortage ó remember unless it feels comfortable; you will not do it enough and will get poor results.
If you feel no shortage of air you are not doing it!
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