THE BREATHING CONTEST™ – A Great Bedtime Practice
Now we will be moving into the ”Body” leg of the stool. Before we begin, I’d like to share a basic premise to be able to assess the benefits of the Three-Legged Stool practice (each leg independently, or all three legs in synergy). We all fit on a spectrum of what I call “up energy” and “down energy.” Whether a person is anxious, ADD, depressed, bipolar, or not diagnosable altogether, “up energy” would tend us toward anxiety, intense reactions, anger, etc. The lower energy would bring us toward numbness, depression, de-energization. I use a scale that goes from 0 to 10. Which is also called the “SUDs – Subjective Units of Distress.” That is, each person should self-assess where on the “ometer” s/he falls. In this analysis, there are three ‘ometers. I call them “I.D.F.” (like the Israeli army). This stands for: Intensity, Duration, and Frequency. When I assess my clients, I ask them, “where are you today on your ometer‘s? How intense is it? Let’s call this scale the “Intensity ‘Ometer.” If it’s extremely intense they might say, “I’m at an eight or an 8 1/2 out of 10. (If it’s at a 10, it’s likely that they can’t even have an appointment to discuss this.) If they were to say, “three,” that would be considered a calm state. Zero would be totally unaware of anything that was adverse in either direction. Possibly forgetting that s/he even had anxiety and the like. With regards the down energy, we might use “negative points” to graphically depict for intensity, but that is not relevant. We’re talking about a gauge that could be just used in numbers where the worst feeling is a ten, and the best feeling is zero.
Here I’d like to share a little bit moving into the body and how we can bring down the ‘ometers. Focusing on the body leg of the stool, what we would like to accomplish is a slowing down of the various body systems such as respiration, heartbeat, blood pressure, EEG, etc. Getting ourselves to a state of rest even while we are awake is healthy for our heart, our brain, and all our systems. The more we practice it, especially when we don’t “need” it (i.e., in the moment of the problem), the more ready we are when it is necessary.
The first entry into techniques for the Three-Legged Stool for the body leg of the stool, is my Basic Breathing for Beginners™* and my Breathing Contest™. These can be performed throughout the day, however, I strongly suggest that the Breathing Contest™ be done just before drifting off as well as when you wake up in the middle of the night. It performs the function of slowing down the body’s systems as well as monitoring the improvement in one’s breath capacity as you oxygenate the body more optimally. Last but not least, in addition to functioning to see how “well we’re doing,” the counting functions as a distraction from all the swirling thoughts that accompany many of us to bed.
In The Breathing Contest™, we inhale through the nose, gently exhale through the mouth, exhaling longer than we inhale. We try to get into a rhythm that’s comfortable and not pressed or stressed, trying to exhale if it’s comfortable, without even concerning ourselves with the inhale. If we find that we could exhale longer than we are already doing, we may need to inhale for another second or two. If you can, it may give you the ability to length your exhale further. The slow, relaxed inhalation through the nose, followed by the slower exhale through the small, pursed mouth hole is called a “breath cycle.” Get into a comfortable rhythm with the above parameters as you find a comfortable breath cycle. Repeat it for a minute or two. Remember your “score” since you are having a ”contest” with yourself. The next time you do this exercise, you pick up where you were. Let’s say, you were able to get into a cycle of “3-6” (three seconds on the nasal inhale, and six on the pursed mouth exhale) the next time practicing this, try for 3-7, or 4-7. However, this is for your benefit and never should be done in a “stressful manner” that exceeds your edge.
In upcoming installments, we will talk about the mechanism of the lengthy exhale, and how it relates to the 10th cranial nerve – the vagus nerve, which affects many of the organs in the body and can enhanced, bring us to greater states of relaxation.
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