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Health Q and A

Deep Breath Feels Awful 

Mike's answers in bold

Message:  Dear Michael, 
For the past nine years I have been having difficulty breathing.  I constantly feel like I'm not getting enough air so I'm constantly struggling to take a deeper breath.  Sometimes I can take the deeper breath and I get a feeling of satisfaction and sometimes I can't and feel awful. 
I did that for 40 years.

When that happens, I try again and again to take the deep breath, often contorting my body or stretching my arms our and locking them in front of me.  I have been to more than one pulmonary specialist and they have all said my lungs and blood gases are perfect. this sounds like a breathing coordination issue. One doctor said that although my lungs are taking in plenty of air, after he administered an inhaler I was taking in even more air, so perhaps I am slightly asthmatic. That is not the way to view asthma.
Anyway. the doctors told me it's all anxiety, but I have a difficult time believing that. I agree with them but for different reasons then they think  about. I do know that anxiety makes it worse, but I do think there is some underlying cause.  Perhaps skeletal etc.. Breathing coordination.  

Anyway, it's awful. I feel like living is a struggle and I have a difficult time doing work.  I tried Prozac at one point and it helped somewhat, but not completely. (and I was on a high dose of it too) Only addresses symptoms, not causes.   

I guess I should probably do more tests, but I do not have insurance as I am self employed.  Unfortunately, no insurance company will take me because I am recovering from an eating disorder so they see me as a risk.  I will do anything to help myself at this point.  Do you have any suggestions.  I will even come to NC to work with you if you feel you can help me.  I will try to call you tomorrow, but I'm sending this, just in case I can't reach you by phone tomorrow.

Get this recommended program and perhaps coming here.

Migraines, chest pains, vitality and emotions

Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your newsletter.
My sister ------ was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet
with you in early June.  She mentioned what a kind person you are.  She lives in Hawaii, I in Nevada, but we talk with each other several times a week and she has continued working with her breathing.  On her way back from North Carolina, she stopped in Nevada to join us in celebrating my daughter's high school graduation, and shared with us what she has learned. 
I have had terrible migraines for several years now and just this week, I tried optimal breathing and lo and behold, they first subsided and then eventually disappeared.  How wonderful it was to rid myself of this.  I will continue this practice whenever I feel the need. 
In closing, please keep me informed if you plan on visiting Las Vegas.  My father who also lives in Las Vegas, uses your tapes, etc. as faithfully as my sister and I know he would love to join me in going to any seminars/classes that you may present.  He was experiencing chest pains (angina?) periodically and since he started his optimal breathing techniques and exercises, he has not touched his nitroglycerine.  It is amazing given his history of hear disease.  He also feels more vital.  The greatest reward is that even emotionally, he has opened himself up to us all.  I thank you, Mike, as there are many more things that have happened to our family since meeting you.

Free Diving Breath Holding - Healthy or No?

Below is a re-post about breathing technique, originally posted on the US Free dive list in 2000.

How would you experts describe the proper breathing technique?

"I think it's a highly personal thing that is shared, thus far, only because we are constrained by basic, common physiological limits. What our psychological limits are remain to be seen. Remember the sub-4-minute mile: in 1954 Roger Bannister ran it--what was thought to be simply beyond human capabilities. And then, within one year 37 others did it; within 2 years, over 300 had done it). And then there's the paradigm-shattering Bob Beamon super-leap in the '68 Mexico City Olympics (29-feet, 2 1/2 inches - beating the existing world mark by nearly two feet!). It has happened in other sports:  quantum breakthroughs that somehow potentiate the next level of achievement by others, and within a short time frame. There seem to be subconscious subcultures that invisibly govern huge territories in the mindscape. Surely there must be keys to this territory.  

There's got to be a breakthrough point out there for us too; something that will shatter the psychological barrier and pull us all along in it's slipstream. Safety and consciously, I hope, but also inevitably. It is a dangerous game though; we should make no mistake. And if it never happens, then surely what we have now is enough. After all, following the paradigm shift, there will simply be another to await. For me, for now, the game is fantastic and it is plenty. Let's smile within our arena and bask in the richness of the game we have discovered!

Re-post follows:

I've recently been asked by a tank diver friend about just how we do it: hold our breath for "so long." Certainly, we all do something specific and, perhaps, different from one another. Much of what I do I found hard to explain to him. I've since been trying to be more consciously attentive to exactly what I do: physically and mentally, both in preparing for the dive and during. I wonder how you all experience and think about just what it is we actually DO when we do what we do.

My attempt to explain it to him follows. What's your way?

The Prep:

Start relaxed, floating on the surface. Notice any tension in my body and "let it go," like preparing for a meditation. Get to baseline breathing rate and  once established, and fully recovered from the previous dive, I take several progressively deeper breaths, "breathing from the stomach up thru the chest" ala yoga exercises. Maybe 3-5 breaths like this. Then, about 5-7 very deep and more closely spaced breaths. The final, is the deepest and is held. Care is taken to NOT increase heartrate thru anticipation of the dive or other mental stimulants (control the limbic "primitive" brain).

 The Descent:

Release snorkle, pike, raise leg, begin to drop. A few strong slow kicks to get to negative and then, depending on the type/depth of diving, glide down to depth or kick a bit more to get thru the top portion of the dive and down to depth. Mentally, as a natural low-level anxiety emerges, the game begins. The relationship towards the fear of air starvation becomes a game.

It is "out there" in the consciousness, and I physically smile at it like an old aquantence, neither friend nor enemy. 

The Hunt:

Depending on what I'm hunting, of course, the down time, scanning, and positioning are different. What does not change is the sense that I have a limited time and that my breath-control strategy must match the hunt.

Typically, I try and strike a balance between mental alertness and a calm that is all-pervasive. It's sounds contradictory but it somehow works. Eyes are alive, head turns slowly, legs move just enough to maintain balance. I notice the "feel" of the coolness of oxygen in my blood. I focus on the wealth of it, as if here, of all places on Earth, I have all that I need. I also feel a kind of physical drowsiness that I maintain, even when tracking and shooting a fish. The guiding principle: don't "electrically spike up"

i.e., keep the neurons firing slowly, the electrical impulses steady (I'm a believer in lateral line sensitivity to this in our prey fish).

 The Ascent:

Ultimately, my control of, or relationship to, these feelings begins to erode. It "becomes" time to go up. Small contractions may begin in my gut/diaphram and throat. I may even hear an internal groan or two in my lower throat. I begin to smile and to redouble my relaxing "non-effort efforts." Anxiety, tension, and wasted movement are the tricksters that conspire to rob me of oxygen (and life). I smile at them, search for that relaxation, and rise. Kicking slowly, trailing my gun. Streamlined. I focus on the beauty of the light above (I'm often in kelp and it's akin to cathedral lighting in an old church) and I move towards it. If it's an easy one, and I feel I'm overreacting and not properly "in my head" I'll actually stop before the surface and wait a few seconds: training and reminding myself not to lose it, reinforcing that I've got more than I need, in most cases, and that panic is death. If it's a tough one and I feel I'm anywhere near the edge I will close my eyes for that last "shallow water blackout" interval (10-20 ft from the surface) and start doing math problems(!) to stay mentally alert but relaxed. The concentration, I think, keeps me from the risk of a passive letting go. (As a former ocean lifeguard, I've seen passive drowners: people who just let go and die. It's a very strange and real thing, and may be a potential within us all.)

The Recovery:

Once on the surface, I wait a moment (training, again) before I take that first breath. I take it and exhale immediately. Then I take another, which I hold for a few seconds before slowly exhaling. An old martial arts instructor of mine, who was a 4-time gold medalist in Tae Kwon Do in the Korean Army, used to drill us hard on breath control at just the time when we were heaving for air after an intense workout. I used to think him a sadist; but he was a master. Yes, there is a moment of dizziness on that first pause before releasing, but it soon fades and you can return to normally breathing and heart rate surprisingly soon. 

The Afterglow:

After a typical ( 2- to 4-hour) dive like this, my lungs feel expansive for days. I miss it all within a week and I know that I've got to get back to that place where it seems I have all that I need. "


From Mike:

Interesting. It makes a lot of sense.  I read  Pippen's heart rate is around 60 usually and goes up to 100 when he hits the water and then down to 40 during descent. 

Having read the preceding and studied breathing for 30 years I suspect that there is a distinct cross over where the length of time one can hold one's breath (conditioning) must be balanced against the oxidative stress and resultant potential for shortening the life span including but not limited to shallow water black out: you may be fitter but you probably won't live longer.

Depends on your priorities.  Breath Holding   Breathing Improvement Video

Exercise Induced Breathing Problems and so called cures

Mike answers in bolded area. 
Dear Mike: 
I have recently developed a difficulty with my ability in regards to deep breathing based on a substantial second hand smoke situation and also I hate to admit an occasional use of an illegal herb. My doctor doesn't dispute it but feels it mostly derives from my anxiety, in other words making the existing problem worse.
I am 48 years old, in superb health and exercise regularly and feel I am in tune with my body. I definitely agree that I exacerbate things when I have difficulty breathing but feel there is an underlying cause that I at this point I am hopeful to try and eradicate and not just treat. I also have come to the conclusion that some of my chest tightness which may further increase my anxiety is derived from a recent increase in my weight lifting.

Probably so.  So stop weight lifting until you know how to do it properly.

I recently had a severe ankle sprain which has caused me to decrease my cardio workouts considerably, possibly adding to my woes. The last few days however I am back at the cardio and during the activity and for a period of time afterwards felt like my old self (I felt great) but as the day wore on I could feel the strange lack of oxygen sensation I currently experience reassert it's presence. I'm not really short of breath, just can't get that full dose of air. At times I feel fine and have never had a cough, wheezing, fatigue, or anything else other than the tightness which I explained.
Is someone with early stage COPD capable of doing what I am doing?

Possibly but do not think that way.  Develop your breathing properly and it will not be an issue or at least less of one.

Is there any chance the worst case scenario is that I do indeed have something like emphysema?

It matters less to not if you do what is necessary and proper.

I have had this about a month and feel as though I can conquer it however. My major symptom is simply that I cannot get a good long breath like I am used to but I can still perform in the most vigorous of activities it seems. Can one just get a major assault to the respiratory system and fully recover? The doctor has me on Alprazolam (Zantac) which actually does some good but is it masking the real problem or does it being effective indicate that a large part of my problem is indeed anxiety?  

I agree.  Anxiety is caused primarily by poor breathing. It also exposes and if occurring enough can cause poor breathing; reflecting and effecting.

After all it does work as a muscle relaxant. But there are times on it or without it that I am nearly 100%.
From your website I gather you are an incredibly knowledgeable individual and I humbly seek your advice. I am not prepared currently to buy one of your products but I swear to God if I am cured I will be strengthening my breathing techniques with one of your products for sure and offer the grandest of testimonials.

I have hundreds of great testimonials.  You just need to do the correct thing now.

Promise. Now I need something else. What do you think? A bad incident that will go away? I had zero problems whatsoever until one day I noticed difficulty breathing. Before that I'm out playing basketball hard with 20 year olds on a regular basis with no inkling of a problem. Is this something you're familiar with and I would appreciate your best advice. I am waiting for chest x-ray results sometime next week, and are there other tests I should take that you may feel are necessary?

That May Directly or Indirectly Cause Breathing Difficulties or Hinder Proper Oxygen Utilization Naturedoc   Drugs.com Legal Murder

Breathing resistance trainers restrict breathing volume past a certain mediocre level

Though they can be helpful in many areas, the medical industry survives on useless or miss-leading testing. You will never be CURED.  That is a concept that the medical establishment often overuses.  You need to take responsibility for your exercise and breathing development. Then you will probably not have those problems or much less of them.  I recommend you get our  Breathing Improvement Program at   www.breathing.com/energy.htm. It comes with a money back guarantee, because it works.


Hello Mike,
            Just a few words to let you know that you are having success.  I personally have benefited  greatly from your breathing exercises in the Optimal Breathing Kit and as a good disciple I have been carrying the message forward. I live in North Wales UK and area once well known for its coal mines and its resulting chest and breathing problems.
 I was recently playing golf with an ex miner when he started having breathing problems and was in distress so later over a drink I explained to him about different methods breathing as he said he had not been given any such advice from his Doctors. I downloaded some of your info and others off the web and posted it to him, I didn't see him for a month then one day when arriving at the club he rushed over to me grinning from ear to ear he had read my info he felt miles better but most of all was the vast improvement in the quality of his sleep ,I have made a pal for life. Many thanks and God Bless. Len M.

From Mike:
Good for you.  Remember that bending over will eventually reduce breathing volume. Breathing volume is THE primary marker for longevity. Whenever I get to Wales I can show both of you a special way of using the breathing to improve your game. Recommended program to enhance relaxation and breathing ease while playing golf and to help recover lost volume volume.

Firefighter and Surfer

All of your exertion is probably causing your breath to be restricted.  You are almost guaranteed a MAJOR advance in your progress if you visit to me in my office.  Or get my Optimal Breathing Kit. It should help a great deal. You can also do skype consults.

Breathing and Movement

Breathing and movement are interrelated and in many way interdependent. Great dancers can not be great singers. Great singers can not be great dancers.  GOOD yes, great , no. What is YOUR choice?

When you breathe out during contraction you must then let go completely and allow the breath to enter large deep and easily. Give it time.  Develop that to the max now.

Smoking and Recovering Lung Function

I suffer from severe anxiety/panic attacks. I've heard breathing plays a large role in this, but I also would like to know if being an ex-smoker of 10 years, if I can get my "lung health" back? I've been smoke-free for 2 years now...any answers?

From Mike:
Yes you can get your lung health back. I smoked 2 packs of camels a day for 14 years.  It takes time though. Do not wait until you are aging before you quit.  The sooner the better.
Be the BOSS

Singing and Supporting its Foundation

Hello Mike,
I was wondering if you can help.
Is it true to say that for singing we need to keep the diaphragm expanded, to resist its temptation to rise back up into its natural position for control of the air?
Is this achieved by the following exercise:
Keeping the lower ribs expanded and with hands on waist coughing gently 2 times and you should feel an outward pulse against your fingertips. A gentle but firm outward pressure.
This support should be established just prior to the sound and maintain it to the end of the vocal sound.

From Mike:
Not happy with the cough. Also, not so much focus on the waist as many have different views of the waist. Try more in the soft area above the pelvis and below the ribs.  Push out with the belly muscles as you speak or sing or do your vocal exercises. Recommended Program

Chronic Bronchitis

I  have had bronchitis for most of my life. Just recently I have had my allergies act up which occurs each year during the hay fever season. 
Following/During  this time, I have received a cough that I've had for the past week. I tried buckleys, robitussin and went to my doctor and he prescribed a medicine(S) called zythromin & anbesul. I don't think I should take these antibiotics due to the effects they cause. What do you think?
Thanks for your consideration.

From Mike:
I am a naturalist and this web site is about self help. I can not get in the way of your MD relationship because they have strict licensing rules that protect them even when their choices cause worsening conditions or death. But I can give you an opinion.
You CAN beat bronchitis.
Develop and Cleanse your breathing


Hello Mike,  I've been getting your regular emails for a couple of years now and have enjoyed them greatly.
I have a question that I wonder if you could address concerning ground level ozone.
I'm not sure where I heard it but several years ago I heard a physician talk about the fact that ozone is actually an oxidizer.  That is to say that it bleaches (in a sense) in the same manner as does peroxide or chlorine bleach (chemically, more akin to peroxide, of course).  Probably so.  Under certain conditions.

Specifically, what it oxidizes are the sensitive areas of our lungs (the name?).  I am aware that ground level ozone is officially classified as an "Irritant," (I have met people that are "irritants as well but in many ways they are wonderful human beings) :-) "which I'm sure it is, In  great enough quantities by ratio  to the fresh air available, yes. But it can also be used as a disinfectant. but the big, and little publicized, news is that ozone can do significant damage to our lungs if one is exposed to significant amounts of it through exposure to air containing high concentrations of ground level ozone and/or the inhalation of large amounts of air containing more moderate amounts of air as a result of strenuous physical activity. Anything to excess is negative.  Ozone is easily gotten to excess but not always.  It depends what it is in relation to. Ozone is thought of as entirely negative due to its ability to grab and combine with an extra molecule such as particulate matter in exhaust emissions. But it is also used in pool filters instead of chlorine and to kill mold  and air-born germs in a breathing atmosphere. But I would not want to breathe it without a constant exchange of fresh air as the ozone can get toxic pretty quickly. The application of ozone is the critical part, not that it is bad for us ALL the time, because it is not.  Walk out of doors after a strong electrical storm and smell the ozone fresh air.  I wish it was like that ALL the time.  Sit in the warm pool at Harbin Hot Springs in California (they ozone the water to clean it) and watch oxygen bubbles cling to your skin and feel your energy increase as the oxygen (O2) is absorbed into your body through your skin.  I believe the oxygen bubbles come from the O3 that has lost a single molecule to have it release the extra O2 into the water. 

Could you comment, confirm, publicize this topic?  Thanks!  Incidentally, the television news reported that the monitoring station in Acadia National Park here on the coast of Maine (traditionally a problematic ozone region due to its down wind, "down east," geographic location) recorded its highest ozone levels ever, yesterday 7/2.  Thanks for helping me learn more.  Again, ozone is being attracted to particulate matter and so it shows up like Mighty Mouse to "save the day". But it brings with it its own natural "magnetic" attraction to debris and therefore gets made guilty by association. See http://www.breathing.com/articles/ozone-therapy.htm  and get Ed McCabe's Oxygen Therapies to study the issue more deeply.

Digestive Enzymes

Mr. White, thank you for your recommendations. I have reread your stuff on enzymes and your testimonial on the weight loss links. I assume you have used the Health Nuts formulation of enzymes for yourself. I am wondering if you are taking them indefinitely, or if you used them until you had certain results. My concern is sustainability. I like the idea of learning how to breathe and use sounds for a regular practice, and adding enzymes to help me regain digestion health, but I am concerned about what it will mean in the long run. Later days, Shirley M

Dear Shirley: 
Enzymes are for a lifetime. They do not remain but are used in the process of daily cellular function.  In my opinion to the degree your diet is not 100% raw is the degree you should take the enzymes. And 100% raw would be better but that is rarely attained.

This is not like a vaccination. You must, like breathing, replenish the digestive enzyme supply either from raw living foods or a supplement. I need to ad that there is NO supplement that will entirely replace raw living foods.  On a day to day basis. I even take digestive enzymes with a protein drink as I want to add them into my body for digestion of other foods. They seem to build up a reserve. http://www.breathing.com/optimal-digestion.htm

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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.