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Anything one does 4,000 to 25,000 times a day can affect us in many ways

If breath is life, then what?

"Breathing and related exercises are 100 times more effective to medical therapy than any drug.  This knowledge is indispensable to man and every physicians should study it thoroughly".
Shen Chia-shu, A Ching Dynasty adept and physician.

Just keep breathing ............and reading.

"Breath is life" is a well-known phrase among health professionals. In complementary/alternative medicine also called mind/body medicine.  It seems logical that anything one does 4,000 to 25,000 times a day can affect us in many ways.  Actually EVERYTHING we think, feel or do is influenced by the way we breathe. Everything. Yet most take breathing for granted until they can not breathe very well but when you are out of breath nothing much else matters. Long before you run out of breath the breathing patterns of dominant chest or belly breathing are in control of the autonomic nervous system's response to ALL exterior and interior stimuli.  When the breathing pattern is out of balance ie: more chest and not enough consistently sustained belly, as it is with most people in varying degrees or times of stress or trauma - past or present, the limbic system-amygdala-reptilian brain goes into continuous over stimulation of fight or flight survival response and adrenalin/cortisol production. This dysfunctional breathing  pattern gets locked in place by over tight muscles and connective tissues, poor posturing, rigid attitudes and unresolved emotions and will not change much without repeated and accurate influence(s) (think our breathing mastery kit or living several years to decades in a spiritual retreat center or one's own private island in the Pacific.)

Breathing is our primary life support system. The survival instinct's function is to override anything and everything just to survive. EVERYTHING.  If the survival instinct is not held in check or kept in balance (think PTSD), any improvement in one's body mind or spirit will be temporary or useless as the ingrained unbalanced nervous system responses caused by the unbalanced breathing mechanics will continue to distract and distort.  Progress in one area or learning or growth will be overridden or followed by digress or distortion in another.  Chemical, biochemical, "nutritional" and hormonal substances that speed or slow the breathing patterns and or heart rate will further confuse the issue.

Breath is life. When any evidence of any disordered human energy presents itself, breathing patterns are the first place we should investigate thoroughly, not the last. For more about this read:

With the passing AB 2100 in California we see a growing movement to "legitimize" alternative healing modalities. AB2100 allowed licensed physicians safe harbor to treat cancer and other illnesses with Alternative Modalities.  It set a trend across the USA. The "new age" methods have shifted some 35% of the health dollar over to them.  Because many of them work, and when applied properly, with fewer or no drug side effects

Leading edge physicians such as Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, Sheldon Hendler and Len Saputo agree that there is much to be gained by addressing the way we breathe as it relates to the human body, mind, spirit and emotions and their inter-relatedness, interdependence, and in fact inseparability.

Depending upon how breathing is approached there ARE either short term or long term effects. Sometimes there are negative results as with many of the more esoteric practices. Those that seem to give a moment of respite need to be built upon while the breather becomes reacquainted with their inner sensing related to the way they breathe. The way they breathe calms and or allows sensory feedback and or energizes and affords balanced volition. More about this later.

Our approach to breathing is to separate it into two major categories.

1. Breathing-energy-work called "breathwork" or "conscious breathing"

2. Breathing-mechanical-function-work called "breathing work" or "advanced breathwork".  Access http://www.breathing.com/articles/differences.htm for further clarification!

Presently, most of category 2 is lumped into category 1. This confuses both schools and is a significant aspect of my research and work.

Western medicine already knows the enormous value of oxygen and its importance to the blood, cells, heart and brain. In addition, many leading edge medical doctors believe that it is possible to greatly influence the autonomic nervous system (ANS) through breathing techniques and exercises that affect breathing mechanics, or mechanical improvement.  Sadly, much of this "belief" is merely anecdotal and at present beyond our present  means of scientific proof. But that in no way means that it does not have tremendous value in supporting optimal health, peak performance and life extension.  Strong science often stems from an intuitively directed sense that leads to statistical validation and mainstream scientific replication.

Observing interactions of both traditional and alternative medical practitioners at various HMF forums has convinced me that there is much to be learned about the breath and breathing from BOTH perspectives.

Oddly enough, and probably due to the common practice and need for using animals instead of healthy humans in scientific research - they do not breathe like we humans - there are no accepted criteria for healthy optimal breathing in humans using OPTIMAL NERVOUS SYSTEM BALANCE. Epidemiological studies includes average healthy and sick people – many of which are sub optimal breathers. To date, most data collected - http://www.breathing.com/articles/clinical-studies.htm – from the primary measurement for lung function - FEV1 - is based on cross sectional data instead of longitudinal/individual data.

It has been stated, "he who breathes most lives most life". The importance of oxygen is widely known. The effect of excessive sympathetic nervous system enervation is also well known but there is serious a lack of attending to the way the breathing drives the nervous system and the need for teaching or training individual patients to sense, develop and maintain the breathing volume and minimize oxygen cost of breathing on a day to day moment to moment basis. (Hyperventilation/dyspnea is the main word used and hyperventilation and often misleads one into thinking the breathing more is unhealthy or dangerous. The issue is BALANCE WITH PNS DOMINANCE.

So, many physicians are satisfied with average "normal" measurements of breathing function; levels that to my way of thinking are really subnormal when compared with optimally healthy guidelines. These "normal" people worry me. This "less then optimal breathing" either overdrives the ANS  or reduces blood oxygen and cellular function below optimal levels inviting disease and death. Inefficient TOO FAST breathing rates promote stressful levels and or the breathing becomes shallow, irregular  or unbalanced.  It is like keeping a car engine revving at various too high RPMs even while at a stop sign. The biological system will wear out faster.  The distressful aspect of hyperventilation working too hard to breathe often stems from this.

To learn more about respiration we must turn our attention to healthy breathing and use it as a role model for future investigation and clinical studies. Some approaches utilizing the breath have long been the basis of ancient disciplines such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Pranayama, and classical voice training. Many of these have negative consequences as well as positive. A system needs to be created that utilizes the best of all of them in an integrated manner: an optimal breathing system.

To reiterate: Every activity we do has an oxygen cost to it. There is even an oxygen cost for breathing.  The breathing is not merely influenced by the Autonomic Nervous System, it IS the lead horse in the team of horses called the ANS. The diaphragm drives the way we breathe and thusly drives the ANS.  It shrinks or weakens and becomes less effective and less efficient. So it would seem quite reasonable from a mainstream medical perspective that the ANS is regulated by the diaphragm’s ability to function in a full, free and balanced manner than previously thought possible. 

The diaphragm is likened to the piston/plunger of a bicycle pump. If you can pull the pump handle back the full length of the piston shaft you can introduce a lot of air into the tire. If the piston is shortened, as in the case of an atrophied, weakened  or restricted diaphragm, the depth and ease of air introduction is reduced proportionately (see http://www.breathing.com/articles/diaphragm-development.htm for comparative pictures of different diaphragm excursions).  This higher rising action also has monumental influences on the depth or strength of parasympathetic enervation. The higher the diaphragmatic rise, the more depth of potential parasympathetic stimulus. I call this the "parasympathetic stroke". It is the basis of the maintenance of "courage under fire" or being able to sustain extreme energy output such as in singing opera or "high intensity" stage or screen acting.

The diaphragm (piston) can be redeveloped to in effect lengthen the stroke or "piston shaft", causing deeper, easier, fuller, smoother, more coordinated  breathing.  This often accompanies reactivating (squeezing the sponge) of key lung tissue heretofore thought impossible to rehabilitate. Effortless and easy are the keys, as deeper breathing will oxygenate, but it can also create excessive tension and oxygen cost and restrict increase in diaphragmatic excursion/development. Nutritional and environmental factors may also be valuable in supporting and or accelerating all of this but the changes in mechanical function can happen in hours instead of days weeks or months.

Through very specific styles of bodywork, breathing sequencing, coordination and exercise techniques, in just a few hours one can realize easier, smoother, deeper, more "correct" breathing because there IS a right way to breathe and it can be achieved along with increased effortless blood oxygenation. Key postural dynamics and several breathing development techniques and exercises will invite the diaphragm to be worked in a way it will be encouraged to grow bigger/higher instead of shrinking and atrophying. In this way, when the stresses and postural challenges in life present themselves, breathing volume and reserve function is increased and maintained. Breath is life.

When the breathing is shallow, reverse, high chest, uncoordinated, or a series of events instead of one thing so then can be our sense of propriety be challenged.  Our reality and judgment is impaired because we have lost touch with our deepest sense of our being. Better breathing often facilitates a strengthened sense of wholeness, balance and or deep peace within. 

The diaphragm can be redeveloped to increase its rise up into the chest and consequently "squeeze the sponge" of the lung tissue to reactivate many alveoli. Criteria for measuring progress stems from specific feeling sense feedback from a patients’ breathing development sessions along with the strength and ease of their voice; whether the breathing is easier, fuller, deeper, effortless, greater, longer, wider are ways of measuring increased breathe-ability. 

What with the advent of combining Alternative and traditional modalities to create what will possibly end up being called Integral or CAM, all health professionals will be in a better position to benefit from much needed insights in a rapidly evolving health professional field.  Educating the patient in disease prevention and optimum health will become a primary tool of the physician of the future. 

The Optimal Breathing Certification workshops are communicated in simple terms that lay people can as well understand. This will enhance the health professional's ability to better explain the how's and why's of optimal breathing. 

As Lafayette California internist Dr. Len Saputo says "It seems prudent to me to explore these safe, non-invasive modalities, especially when the potential for a negative effect with selected approaches is zero. When conventional therapies have little or nothing to offer, searching for additional possibilities becomes our responsibility".

Michael Grant White, "The Optimal Breathing Coach"   Breathing Development Specialist. Creator of the Optimal Breathing Kit

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The breathing improvement techniques, practices and products outlined in this publication are extremely gentle, and should, if carried out as described, be beneficial
to your overall physical and psychological health. If you have any serious medical or psychological problem, however, such as heart disease, high blood pressure,
cancer, mental illness, or recent abdominal or chest surgery, you should consult your health professional before undertaking these practices.