information on breathing? aka, how to do it?

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Scout

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information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« on: August 20, 2019, 04:51:06 PM »
I suck at breathing. Absolutely suck at it. Which is weird to say--like saying, "oh, I am bad at blinking." Which, if I start to think about it, also becomes weirdly difficult. :)

But being bad at breathing is a real thing for me, and it's all the time. I'm developing a mindfulness and meditation practice (emphasis on the practice, meaning I have to work really hard at it), and something I keep on noticing, again and again, is that my breaths are shallow and sharp, and I keep struggling with it. I can force myself to "belly breathe," but breathing that way takes a lot of attention and is still really hard, and I'm supposed to not be doing an activity, just observing. So I observe how terrible and small and shallow these poor little breaths are, and then I think, woah girl. You got issues. And I'd like to solve them.

I have an asthma inhaler, but it doesn't always help. I also have Vocal Chord Dysfunction, which is surprisingly common in those with PTSD. (Does anyone else here have Vocal Cord Dysfunction? I am supposed to go to a speech therapist for help, but medical care here isn't too good and the few I've found never even call me back.) But even outside of asthma and allergies and Vocal Cord Dysfunction, the whole "breathing" thing is just not natural for me. I'm certain it has to do with the constant fight or flight mode of my upbringing, which was extreme, but have started to wonder if something really bad happened when I was an infant. It's odd not to be able to find out, but when I tell myself to just breathe naturally like a baby does, a technique I read about, it does not get better and I get this bad feeling. It's impossible to know if it's my imagination or not, but it would not be surprising if something happened. I can't fix that, but I can try to learn how to breathe now, at 35.

Does anyone else struggle with breathing, and what did you do? What resources did you find that were helpful? So much of what I've read about breathing is just woo-woo stuff that doesn't actually say much, or it just instructs you to breathe, which I evidently don't know how to do. Like googling "how to be a millionaire," and the results all just say "Go be a millionaire!" and I'm like, "Yes, duh, but How?"

Thanks!

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Snowdrop

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2019, 05:14:05 PM »
If you're looking for detailed instructions on how to breathe, it's worth doing a search for longevity breathing. I think there are videos on YouTube.

Also worth looking at the book Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness (which admittedly I still haven't read yet). Looks at special considerations needed for trauma survivors as breathing deeply can make us dissociate.

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harmony

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2019, 05:46:06 PM »
Do you usually breathe through your nose or mouth?

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Scout

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2019, 06:59:10 PM »
Snowdrop--thanks! I checked out the book, but it sounds like it's a bit clinical, and I learned from "Children of the Self Absorbed" that heavy clinical-speak does not work for me as well when it's actually about me. But I will keep it in my rolodex for the future. I've been googling "longevity breathing" and think that could be a great way to research.

Harmony--with nose versus mouth, I'm all over the place. I've had severe allergies forever and am now getting allergy shots, which should wrap up soon, so that has already helped a little with nose breathing. I know mouth breathing (or at least inhales) aren't supposed to be as good, and I do tend to gulp and do shallow breaths when I go in through the mouth. But I'm going to start paying a lot more attention all the time and see what I actually do.

One scary thing about breathing--during meditation practice, where I breathe slow and deep, and even in the last two minutes just now when I tried to practice diaphragm breathing in a chair--is that I feel kind of weird and woozy, even when breathe really slow, like I'm literally drunk on oxygen. My body feels all cold and tingly and weird, and frankly I Do Not Like It. It's scary. I feel stable in one way, but in another like I might pass out or just fall out of my chair, like my bones melted and my muscles are jelly.

Has my body gotten used to living on a tiny bit of oxygen, and now that I'm trying to practice deeper breathing, I literally get kind of drunk on it? The third time I tried to meditate, I ended up going into a good loop and doing it for 25 whole minutes, and for about an hour after I felt high as a kite--to tell the truth, I was basically terrified of the way I felt. It was a "good" feeling on one level, but I did. Not. Like. It. If that feeling came from a drug, I wouldn't take it again.

Good god--do I need to literally need to learn how to breathe at a slower pace? What did they do to me!?! (Kidding. Barely.)

Thanks to you guys for talking to me about this. It really means a lot to have people to talk to about these things.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2019, 04:44:27 PM by Kizzie »

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Snowdrop

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2019, 07:36:14 PM »
Ideally, look out for longevity breathing taught by Bruce Frantzis. He goes into breathing in more detail than you ever thought possible.

One thing to consider is that a lot of people don't breathe out enough. You could try focusing on breathing out more fully so that there's then more space in which to breathe in. But take it very gently. Just a few breaths at a time.

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Blueberry

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2019, 09:26:49 PM »
One scary thing about breathing--during meditation practice, where I breathe slow and deep, and even in the last two minutes just now when I tried to practice diaphragm breathing in a chair--is that I feel kind of weird and woozy, even when breathe really slow, like I'm literally drunk on oxygen. My body feels all cold and tingly and weird, and frankly I Do Not Like It. It's scary. I feel stable in one way, but in another like I might pass out or just fall out of my chair, like my bones melted and my muscles are jelly.

Sounds like a fairly clear signal from your body to take it slowly and/or tackle a different area of healing for the moment.

In yoga practice they advocate nasal breathing. I heard on my healing retreat that breathing through your mouth gets you in contact with your body and breathing through your nose gets you in contact with your intellect, so I'm not surprised that yogis go in for nasal breathing. It doesn't mean it's better per se. I do yoga exercises sometimes and often get the breathing rhythms all wrong, even if I concentrate on them.

Breathing 'properly' is not easy for all traumatised people, so go easy on yourself if you're not managing.  Deep breathing can bring up memories, apparently. It did for me anyway. So it makes more sense to stick to shallow breathing to keep from being overwhelmed with memories.

I've accepted not being able to breathe as well as everybody else in yoga, choir etc. So that's what I've done about it.

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Bach

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2019, 10:27:35 PM »
I also have problems with breathing.  Recently, this topic came up in another thread, and someone posted this article about why breathing can be difficult for people who have been traumatised:

https://medium.com/s/notes-on-changing-your-life/https-medium-com-laura-khoudari-dont-start-with-the-breath-3f4b7f5d3b33

I found it interesting and helpful.  It was quite reassuring to me, after so many years of feeling foolish because I have so much trouble with the whole "take deep breaths and it will calm you down" thing.  Since I read this article, I've been much more aware of my breathing and how it affects me, and am moving towards being able to use breathing more helpfully when I'm upset or having an emotional flashback.

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notalone

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2019, 02:41:17 AM »
Scout,

Breathing has been a challenge for me also. For awhile, I just put aside working on it. When I tried again, I couldn't do more then 4 breaths. After that, ironically, I felt like a was suffocating. My stomach and chest felt so tight. I pictured it as a balloon. A new balloon is very hard to blow up, but if it is blown up again and again, it gets easier to fill with air. I have included the two YouTube videos that were very helpful to me. At times I changed the count on the breathing, for example, for the square breathing I might have done in breath (3), hold (2), out (3) hold (2). Take it easy and slowly. I am not perfect in deep breathing, but have improved over a long period of time. I have gone from feeling like my torso was enclosed by an iron cage, to being able to take ten deep breaths. The iron cage is rare now. I hope that is an encouragement to you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5viPbzpQKTk&list=PL1YJ49es97IrlmamOo3Yj5AbOOSXdvXXA&index=2&t=0s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoQVgJx_QN4&list=PL1YJ49es97IrlmamOo3Yj5AbOOSXdvXXA&index=6

 

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Scout

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2019, 08:03:12 PM »
You guys, I can't tell you how helpful this all is--your kind words, that I'm not the only one, the suggestions for research and links. I feel so much better about it all, and it's previously been a horrific burden and source of shame. All these razor thin yogi women always saying, "breathe" in these irksome calming tones, like it's easy and everyone knows how to do it--let's just say, not helpful for me.

One of my regular struggles is trying to do waaaaay too much, and while that megadrive has gotten me pretty far in a lot of areas, it seriously does not apply to healing. At all. And learning how to breathe is part of healing. The idea that four deep breaths at a time is plenty is such a relief. And I can learn what I can when I can, and build my path forward brick by brick.

A big part of my heart is a waterfall of inside-tears, because I am just really grateful for these gifts you all have given, your thoughts and sharing your struggles and your suggestions from what you've learned, which helps me take big steps forward. For so long, I felt like all these issues were me-problems, inherent flaws in my self, but if you all have them, too, they're not who I am. They're the damage. And we can heal damage.

Thanks so much, you guys. Thank you.

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Jazzy

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2019, 11:01:54 PM »
I like what notalone said about the balloon. I think the key is to give it time though. You can't change your breathing patterns over night, it takes quite a while.

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Bach

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2019, 02:26:42 AM »
One scary thing about breathing--during meditation practice, where I breathe slow and deep, and even in the last two minutes just now when I tried to practice diaphragm breathing in a chair--is that I feel kind of weird and woozy, even when breathe really slow, like I'm literally drunk on oxygen. My body feels all cold and tingly and weird, and frankly I Do Not Like It. It's scary. I feel stable in one way, but in another like I might pass out or just fall out of my chair, like my bones melted and my muscles are jelly.

Sounds like a fairly clear signal from your body to take it slowly and/or tackle a different area of healing for the moment.

In yoga practice they advocate nasal breathing. I heard on my healing retreat that breathing through your mouth gets you in contact with your body and breathing through your nose gets you in contact with your intellect, so I'm not surprised that yogis go in for nasal breathing. It doesn't mean it's better per se. I do yoga exercises sometimes and often get the breathing rhythms all wrong, even if I concentrate on them.

Breathing 'properly' is not easy for all traumatised people, so go easy on yourself if you're not managing.  Deep breathing can bring up memories, apparently. It did for me anyway. So it makes more sense to stick to shallow breathing to keep from being overwhelmed with memories.

I've accepted not being able to breathe as well as everybody else in yoga, choir etc. So that's what I've done about it.

I've never heard that about nasal breathing vs mouth breathing. It's very interesting. Nasal breathing is generally problematic  for me because of a deviated septum, but I have been working on learning to take deep breaths through my nose at times to slow myself down when I'm agitated and am starting to panic-gasp. I have been finding it calming and helpful to focus on the nasal breaths as contact with my intellect. I'm not sure exactly how it's different from what I did before or why it works, but I'll take it!

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Guadalahonky

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Re: information on breathing? aka, how to do it?
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2019, 07:20:13 PM »
Hello Scout,

I was terrible at breathing too. The worst, the receptionist at work would remind me occasionally to breathe.

Then, I found Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/breathmed.html