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    The Healing Power of the Breath

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | July 10th, 2016

    The Healing Power of the Breath

    It is so hard to think of anything else after the events that occurred last week in our nation. Even those that hate to listen to the news would have found it difficult not to be aware of what happened. Watching traumatic events can cause us to be stressed. It can be very emotional. It can cause some of us to be anxious or depressed. This is when we are reminded of the healing power of the breath.
    Although breathing happens unconsciously, we can use the breath in a conscious way to control stress and help with our emotions. In the field of Integrative Medicine, the breath can be used for therapy. There are different breathing exercises that can be taught depending on the situation. An exercise that is extremely useful is the Abdominal Breathing Technique. This is a good technique to learn and can be very relaxing.
    The instruction below was taken from the patient handout found in Integrative Medicine , 3rd Edition by David Rackel published by Elsevier.
    Abdominal Breathing Technique
    Breathing exercises such as this one should be done twice a day or whenever you find yourself under stress, your mind dwelling on upsetting thoughts, or when you are experiencing pain. Abdominal breathing is just one of the many breathing exercises, but it is the most important one to learn before exploring other techniques. The more it is practiced, the more natural it will become, improving your mind and body’s internal balanced rhythm.
    • Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your abdomen. When you take a deep breath in, the hand on the abdomen should rise higher than the one on the chest. This ensures that the diaphragm is pulling air into the bases of the lung.
    • Place your tongue at the ridge of tissue behind your upper teeth, keeping it there through the entire exercise
    • After completely exhaling through your mouth, take a slow deep breath in quietly through your nose for a count of 4, imagining that you are sucking in all of the air in the room.
    • Hold it for a count of 7 (or as long as you are able, not exceeding 7)
    • Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. As all the air is released with exhalation, gently contract your abdominal muscles to completely evacuate the remaining air in your lungs. It is important to remember that when we deepen respirations by completely exhaling air, rather than inhaling more of it.
    • Repeat the cycle four more times for a total of five deep breaths. Do not do more than 5 at one time for the first few months of practice.
    Tips
    • In general, exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation
    • If you have trouble with the exercise, you can speed it up but maintain the 4:7:8 ratio. With practice you will be able to slow it down and breathe in and out more deeply.
    • A rate of one full breath (inhalation and exhalation) every 10 second (for a total of 6 breaths per minute) has been found to have the most beneficial effect on stabilizing the nervous system and reducing blood pressure.
    • The use of the hands on the chest and abdomen is needed only to help you train your breathing. Once you feel comfortable with your ability to breathe into your abdomen, you no longer need to do the hands placement of the exercise.
    • Once you feel comfortable with this technique, you may want to incorporate words that can enhance the exercise. Examples are to say to yourself “relaxation” (with inhalation) and “stress” or “anger” (with exhalation), so that you are breathing “in with the good and out with the bad.” The idea is that you bring in the feeling/emotion that you want with inhalation and release those you do not want with exhalation.

    To learn more about the health benefits of breathing and review more breathing exercises, please check out the audiobook, Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing, by Andre Weil.

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    Secure Your Copy of Letters to My Sisters by Dr. Ngozi Osuagwu.
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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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