Breathing can have a huge effect on our physical and emotional state of being.
Most healthy adults take between 12 & 18 breaths a minute, research shows that slowing this down to as few as 6 a minute can have a powerful pain busting effect. So how does this work?
Breathing slowly reduces pain by having a direct effect on the sympathetic nervous system and studies have shown that dampening down the sympathetic nervous system can block pain.
One study showed that people were able to put up with higher levels of pain and for longer if they practised controlled breathing sessions in which they halved their breathing rates. Breathing slowly could be as good as some medicines at banishing pain.
And it doesn’t stop there, breathing techniques work on anxiety on a physiological level by automatically slowing your heart rate, the effect on anxiety is almost instant.
When I was working through my Post-traumatic stress disorder, one of the most debilitating aspects was the furious heart beat in my chest, which lead to dizziness and the feeling of the room closing in on me.
Finding a small way to control this was through concentrating on my breath and making a real conscious effort to take deep breaths, slow my breathing and with a little time my heart beat would steady and everything would calm again.
Then I realised that physically, if I got a bad shooting pain I would start to tense and I could feel all the muscles in my body going into ‘fight or flight’ mode…. again my breathing would quicken and I would panic, thinking ‘oh no here comes a massive flare up, I’m out, what am I going to do? How will I get home…..’ and the so on and so forth until I was literally frozen with the pain, panic and fear.
Now when I feel the same pain I instantly start to slow my breathing, I remain calm (or try my best to) and more often than not I can relax my whole body and mind and calmly address what’s happening. Before I was making the pain so much worse because I was tensing every single part of my body. Breathing slowly has the opposite effect and can actually reduce the pain and let it pass.
I use a very simple 7/11 technique. Breathe in counting to 7 and breathe out counting to 11…. Continue this until you feel more relaxed and centred.
Simple, but has a huge positive effect on the body and mind!