Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breath from your diaphram

I'm always preaching that cheerleaders should yell from their diaphrams, not scream from their larnyxes. They end up being able to be louder longer, have deeper, richer pitch, and most importantly protect your larnyx from injury- so you don't sound like you've been smoking for 40 years when you're 20. Here's more reasons- it can help you focus (like if you have ADD) and can help you deal with stress and anxiety- especially things like, say... stage fright!

This is from the book "Change your Brain, Change your Life" by psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, M.D.


Breath deeply and slowly from your belly. This is one of the main exercises I teach my patients have panic disorders. I actually write out a panic plan for them to carry with them. On the prescription it says: "Whenever you feel anxious or panicky, do the following:

  • Breath deeply and slowly from your belly.
  • Kill self-fulfilling prophecy forming negative thoughts
  • Distract yourself from the anxiety

Breathing is a very important part of the prescription. The purpose of breathing is to get oxygen from the air into your body and to blow off waste products such as carbon dioxide. Every cell in your body need oxygen in order to function. Brain cells are particularly' sensitive to oxygen, as they start to die within four minutes when they arc deprived of it. Slight changes in oxygen content in the brain can alter the way n person feels and behaves. When a person gets angry, his or her breathing pattern changes almost immediately. Breathing becomes shallower and significantly faster. This breathing pattern is inefficient, and the oxygen content in the angry person's blood is lowered. Subsequently there is less oxygen available to the person’s brain and he or she may become more irritable, impulsive, confused, and prone to negative behavior (such as yelling, threatening, or hitting another person)

Learn to breathe properly
Try this exercise:
Sit in a chair. Get comfortable. Close your eyes. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Then, for several minutes, feel the rhythm of your breathing. Do you breathe mostly with your chest? Mostly with your belly? Or with both your chest and belly? The way you breathe has a huge impact on how you feel moment by moment. Have you ever watched a baby breathe? Or a puppy? They breathe almost exclusively with their bellies. They move their upper chest very little in breathing. Yet most adults breathe almost totally from the upper part of their chest.

To correct this negative breathing pattern, I teach my patients to become experts at breathing slowly and deeply, mostly with their bellies. In my office, I have some very sophisticated biofeedback equipment that uses strain gauges to measure breathing activity. I place one gauge around a person's chest and a second one around his or her belly. The biofeedback equipment measures the movement of the chest and belly as the person breathes in and out. If you expand your belly (using the diaphragm muscles there) when you breathe in, it allows room for your lungs to inflate downward, increasing the amount of air available to your body. I teach my patients to breathe with their bellies by watching their pattern on the computer screen. In about a half hour's time, most people can learn how to change their breathing patterns, which relaxes them and gives them better control over how they feel and behave.

If you do not have access to sophisticated biofeedback equipment, lie on your back and place a small book on your belly. When you breathe in, make the book go up, and when you breathe out, make the book go down. Shifting the center o f breathing lower in your body will help you feel more relaxed and in better control of yourself. Practice this diaphragmatic breathing for five or ten minutes a day to settle down your basal ganglia (the portion of your brain responsible for anxiety and for being able to settle down and focus/concentrate- like ADD).

This has been one of the most helpful exercises for me personally. When I first learned how to breathe properly. I discovered that my baseline breathing rate was twenty-four breaths a minute and I breathed mostly with my upper chest. I had spent ten years in the military, being taught to stick my chest out and suck my gut in (the opposite of what is good for breathing). Quickly I learned how to quiet my breathing and help it be more efficient. Not only did it help my feelings of anxiety, it also helped mc feel more settled overall. I still use it to calm my nerves before tough meetings, speaking engagements, and media appearances. I also use it, in conjunction with self-hypnosis, to help mc sleep when I feel stressed. My current baseline breathing rate is less than ten times a minute.

No comments: