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Sometimes it seems like deep breathing -- also called belly breathing or abdominal breathing -- is the mother of all home remedies.
Not only does deep or abdominal breathing relax you, it can also help you control pain. And, it's wonderful for your long-term health.
On an energetic level, breath is an interface between the subtle and physical worlds, between the conscious and unconscious, between the upper and lower body and the upper and lower chakras. Deep breathing helps to integrate and harmonize our energies. By helping us to relax, it also helps our subtle energies shift more easily to a state of healthy balance and flow.
Deep breathing is just natural, optimal breathing -- nothing fancy. But all too often, we don't breathe optimally and naturally.
Many if not most of us are chest-breathers -- sipping air quickly and shallowly, instead of drinking it in deeply into the lower third of our lungs, as we are meant to do under normal circumstances.
But the exercise goes on to shows you how to supercharge the relaxation response -- which will help you manage and reduce pain.
(This should be a gentle, slow, natural movement. Don't try to fill your lungs till they practically pop!)
Place your hands flat on your belly, watching them rise and fall, to make sure that your abdomen expands as you inhale and contracts as you exhale.
Breathe like this for a while, until it feels comfortable and natural. Consciously see if you can slow it down a little more.
You can count to help you keep the rhythm even. (Unless it makes you tense to count -- in that case, just estimate.)
Inhale for a certain number of counts, say 6 (or whatever is comfortable for you), then exhale for approximately twice as many counts. Do this for a minute or so. (As before, if it makes you tense up to count, then just estimate.)
By now you should be starting to feel more relaxed. Continue like this for as long as you wish.
Watch out for backwards, or "paradoxical" breathing, the first few times you do this breathing exercise. Many people who have not been breathing optimally for a long time, when they first start trying to belly breathe, suck their bellies in as they breathe in, and stick their bellies out when they breathe out. That's exactly opposite of how it should be.
The FDA now approves breath training as a recognized treatment for hypertension, and more than 1,000 additional studies show its effectiveness in relieving anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, and more.
You take over 20,000 breaths a day. It pays to do them right!
Dr. Andrew Weil calls learning to breath correctly "the master key to self-healing," and says "If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly."
Therapist and breathwork expert Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., says in At the Speed of Life: A New Approach to Personal Change Through Body-Centered Therapy, "If we could do but one thing with people who are in emotional pain, we would most likely focus on breathing."
Please use good judgment in deciding when your pain warrants the attention of a medical doctor, and always follow up to find the root cause.