Breathing Exercises and Self Healing
Source: Breathing Exercises and Self Healing, by Roger Jahnke, O.M.D.
Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing
Alternate Nostril Breathing
A powerful and much needed revolution is taking place
in many areas of our lives. The human race is facing the difficult consequences
of neglecting the laws of nature. There is no more timely gesture that any person
can make than to immediately and vigilantly take responsibility for the part of
the world that lies within their own command.
Being mindful of balance in our home environments
regarding water, pollution, recycling, fuel resources are necessary and of
great value. At least as important is minding the balance within ourselves.
Taking responsibility for generating and maintaining
peak health is a key element in our necessary quest to achieve sustainable life
There is a self-healing impulse which is part of every
person's body, mind and spirit. In most cultures the traditional healing system
is based on enhancing and supporting this inborn healing energy.
For some reason knowledge of how to enhance our
automatic healing impulse has been lost in the United States and the Western world until very recently. For
several hundred years we have believed that the disease comes from outside and
attacks the individual who is a helpless victim.
Many disorders including heart disease, diabetes,
stroke and cancer have been found to be largely preventable. We are now
realizing that even though the disease may come from the outside, as in a
virus, the internal healing mechanism of the immune system is the most
The best and most profound medicine is already in us.
We must learn and then apply methods to turn the medicine on and activate its
ability to heal us.
Self-health responsibility, more than any other
possible option, is the solution to our healing. Evidence for the truth of this
fact is coming at us from everywhere. Research has shown that diet, exercise
and stress management are powerful tools for maintaining health.
However, in the Western world we have little tradition
that is well tried in support of self-health actions. Diets change every day.
Aerobics sold a great deal of equipment but was found to be detrimental to many
people. Now low impact aerobics is the latest approach.
The Qigong of China and the Pranayama
of India are systems of self-applied health enhancement which are easy to learn
and simple to apply. Self-care is one of the most important features of the
Asian traditional systems of medicine.
These ancient philosophical and medical theories
encourage, and, in fact, demand action and responsibility on the part of the
person who is seeking to maintain or enhance health.
The self-application of health enhancement methods is
particularly remarkable because of the broad array of real health benefits that
are triggered. These practices modify and accelerate the body's own
self-regulating physiological and bioenergetic
They have a very practical application for healing
diseases as well as supporting health maintenance, endurance and longevity. In
addition, the very same practices, refined, deepened, and perfected, link to a
whole realm of more metaphysical practices focused toward spiritual growth.
In the modern Western world, the prevailing medical
system is tragically lacking in strategies that a person or patient can
implement themselves to support their own healing process.
Aside from being patient and compliant to the
physician's orders there has generally been little that the patient could do.
The self-applied health enhancement methods (SAHEM), that spring from the Asian
traditions, are tried and true techniques refined over thousands of years that
are ready to be used now.
A rapidly expanding health care revolution in the
areas of patient responsibility and patient action is necessary immediately to
meet the urgent need for solutions to the crisis in medical costs and the
crisis in quality of care.
These health enhancement practices lend themselves
completely and readily to the critical need for patient applied self-care which
complements any clinical strategy whether it be as
conservative as acupuncture or as radical as surgery.
In their most complete and comprehensive form the
ancient traditions of self-applied health enhancement and personal development
massage, stroking, thumping, pressure) concentration
sounding or chanting
The preliminary level of self-applied health practice,
however, requires only:
These are easy to learn, easy to apply, require no
special knowledge or training and can be practiced by all people (sick or well)
daily with very little impact on time or energy.
In fact, they actually give the individual, both time
and energy-time, because there is less fatigue and forgetfulness, and energy,
because the function of the organs and glands is enhanced and regenerated.
Every minute spent applying these methods is returned
to the practitioner in a need for less sleep. Every unit of energy spent brings
forth an internal ability to generate an even greater amount of energy.
Concentration, focus, intention, meditation,
visualization, affirmation, emotional resolution, attitudinal harmony and
toning are more advanced aspects of the practice of self-applied health
enhancement. These self-applied tools generally serve to support the
practitioner in moving beyond the first layer of the quest for greater health
Beyond the preliminary practices one might still be
seeking improved health, but, in addition, areas such as self-esteem, personal
empowerment and spiritual growth may also be enhanced. Such advanced methods
are very common in the daily practice of the men and women in the monastic
aspect of many spiritual traditions.
The preliminary methods of Qigong can be learned and
practiced as individual techniques. However, integrated into a singular
practice they become even more powerful.
This integration of breathing
practice, relaxation techniques, gentle movement and self massage, saves on
time which is so precious to most people in Western culture. Traditions of this type of practice from both China and India have integrated the four preliminary methods for thousands
of years into systems that are highly refined.
The preliminary methods are profound in effect and yet
extremely simple to learn and apply. Especially in the Chinese arts of Tai Chi
and Qigong, the methods are merged into a singular practice which is sometimes
called moving meditation or meditation in motion.
In China, literally millions of people practice these methods
daily. Children in schools, industrial workers in factories, elders in the
parks and patients in hospitals all apply the preliminary methods faithfully on
a daily basis.
Each of the following "how to" sections are
offered to give the reader the preliminary methods of self-care in the simplest
of terms. Most reference to Asian traditions, while wonderful and fascinating, have been removed as these practices are
completely universal in their application.
There are several guidelines which will help to make
these new aspects of your life most effective while keeping your interest and
not taking up too much of your time:
Do some of these practices
every day. Put them at the core of your life. Consider them as central in your
day as you do rest, bathing and tooth care.
Keep it simple and fun.
Start with less and allow more to come as it is appropriate. If this practice
becomes a stressful issue in your life, it is more of a problem than it is a
Make up your own system.
Change the order. Be the inventor of your practice. All of this was made up by
someone and you are the best person to make it up for you.
Seek guidance and support
but avoid highly regimented systems whose masters and teachers infer that their
way is the "only" or "right" way.
Don't leave the comfort
zone. Increase the intensity of your practice only when it feels easy to do so.
Build and regenerate yourself slowly. Go too far and you will have created a
reason for stopping the practice.
The magnitude of the crisis in
modern medicine demands immediate and broadly pervasive consumer action to
enhance health and curb medical spending. These simple methods practiced by us all, vigilantly and on a daily
basis, can precipitate an absolutely remarkable revolution in the history of
human health care and medical evolution
It is a bit unusual to us in the western world to
consider the importance of breathing techniques. After all, we are always
breathing, aren't we? It seems a little silly to put extra attention to
something we do naturally. Notice your own breathing. Isn't each breath
actually very shallow?
Does your posture or position encourage or restrict
your ability to take full breaths? If you note carefully you will probably
realize that you are utilizing one quarter or less, of your lung capacity.
The presence of special breathing practices in the
ancient cultures has always been a mystery to people in the Western world.
There are numerous beneficial physiological mechanisms that are triggered when
we turn our attention to the breath and then increase it's
When volume, rate and attention level are all altered,
dramatic physiological, and even emotional, changes can occur. As it turns out,
unknown to science until very recently, the action of the lungs, diaphragm and
thorax are a primary pump for the lymph fluid, a lymph
This mechanism may be more important to the lymph
heart than body movements. In addition, the breath is the source for oxygen
which is the key element in the body's ability to produce energy.
And the act of relaxed, full breathing moves the
function of the autonomic nervous system towards balance or homeostasis.
(Please see the section on physiology in "The Most Profound Medicine"
for a complete revelation of the mechanisms initiated by Qigong).
From the traditions of the ancients we know that
breathing practices are important. Why would they continue to employ techniques
that were ineffective? Empirical science, the scientific method of all original
cultures, is based on trial and error.
That which has value is kept and employed. That which
is found to have little or no value is dropped. In the empirical approach, that
which is kept, is "tried and true".
Empirically breath practice is "tried and true".
We also know that these practices are important
through clinical experience. Patients who have learned and used breath practice
as a part of their daily personal system of self-applied health enhancement
respond more quickly to treatment, no matter what type of physician they are
Individuals who are well are able to remain more well, adapt to greater stress and have greater
endurance when they keep breath practice in their daily self-care ritual.
Inspiration is the rush that one feels when over taken by spiritual energy, it
is the force that impels one forward into life, and it is the divine influence
that brings forth creativity and vitality.
Inspiration is, also, "to breath
in ". The breath is a link to the most profound medicine that we carry
within us. Within this nearly unconscious gesture, a breath, that we enact
1,261,440,000 (1 and 1/4 billion) times in our life span there is a simple yet
profound healing capability.
Because we are generally addicted to complexity and
busyness, reaching a state of authentic relaxation is a challenge. Many of us
are locked into worry, hurry, overwork and compulsive behaviors
and the mind is very difficult to quit.
The beauty of these progressive relaxation processes
is their simplicity and their ability to allow the mind to have an easy focus.
When the attention wanders off of the process one need only return to the
breath and the sequence of awareness points.
In contrast to meditation which, in many traditions,
attempts to empty the mind with accompanying images, any one, including young
children, harried executives or older individuals whose habits are more deeply
There are a number of advanced relaxation and
meditation methods which include concentration, focus, intention and
visualization that are used to regulate the body function ,
move the Qi or energy to specific areas of the body
and even project the energy outside the body.
These methods accelerate the individual's health and
personal development practice to a greater level of power and refinement. Two
such methods, "the circulation of the light in the microcosmic orbit to
refine the energy body" and the "marrow washing practice" will
be revealed in the advanced practice section .
Clearly, breath practice and relaxation practice
enhance one another. You are in charge of how to bring these together. Remember
to invent your own practice and have it be run, even inspiring.
In China, breath, relaxation and movement are merged together
to create Qigong in its many different forms including Tai Chi. Commit yourself
to mastering these practices.
They are, at their least, incredible healing tools
that you can use right away for no cost to help you to rehabilitate your health
and literally regenerate temporarily deficient and exhausted tissues, glands
and organs. At their greatest, they are the seed skills for enhanced mental and
physical capability and they are the foundation tools for spiritual growth.
Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing
This method is simply a deepening of the breath. Take
slow, deep, rhythmic breaths through the nose. When the diaphragm drops down,
the abdomen is expanded allowing the air to rush into the vacuum created in the
Then the chest cavity is expanded, allowing the lungs
to fill completely. This is followed by a slow, even exhalation which empties
the lungs completely.
This simple breath practice done slowly and fully,
with intention, concentration and relaxation activates all of the primary
benefits of therapeutic breath practice. In Qigong and Pranayama
the breath is retained for additional benefit.
Health maintenance: 6 to 10 repetitions, 2 to 3
sessions per day.
Health enhancement: 6 to 10 repetitions, 4 to 6 sessions
Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 15
to 20 repetitions, in 10 to 15 sessions per day. Getting
started: 2 to 3 repetitions, once or twice per day.
Remember to keep it easy and fun.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Using your thumb on your right nostril and your pinky and third finger (the finger right next to your pinky finger), hold your right nostril closed and inhale up
your left nostril. Pause, and while your lungs are full of air, switch your
fingers so that your left nostril is closed. Then exhale out your right
nostril. Then inhale up your right nostril, pause, and again
while your lungs are full of air, switch your fingers so that your right
nostril is closed. Exhale. Repeat this process about 12 times. This
breath is often done in preparation for deep relaxation or meditation.
You will notice that usually one or the other of the
nostrils is more open. If you breath on a small hand
mirror, the patch of mist from one nostril will be larger than from the other.
The ancient practitioners of Yoga in India were aware of the significance of this and employed
this knowledge to enhance health and consciousness. Western science did not
notice this phenomena until the 1800's.
It has been found recently, through the application of
current neuroscience, that the practice of alternate
nostril breathing helps to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
Health maintenance: 10 to 12 repetitions, 2 to 3
sessions per day.
Health enhancement: 10 to 12 repetitions, 4 to 6
sessions per day.
Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 15
to 20 repetitions, 8 to 10
sessions per day or up to even 100 repetitions in a single session.
Getting started: 10 to 12
repetitions, once or twice per day.
Notice that this method is very quieting.
Our first act when we emerge from the womb is to
inspire. Our last act is to dis-inspire or expire.
These breaths, first in and finally out, are like parentheses that encompass
our corporal life. It is no surprise that the breath would be so remarkably
linked to the power of healing.
This is another extremely simple method that initiates
the relaxation response. Begin by taking slow deep breaths. Repeat these
messages to yourself.
"My hands and arms are heavy and warm" (5
"My feet and legs are heavy and warm" (5
"My abdomen is warm and comfortable" (5
"My breathing is deep and even" (10 times).
"My heartbeat is calm and regular" (10
times). "My forehead is cool" (5 times).
"When I open my eyes, I will remain relaxed and
refreshed" (3 times).
Health maintenance: 2 to 3 sessions per day.
Health enhancement: 6 to 10 sessions per day.
Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 10
to 15 sessions per day. Until you are well you have time to do this.
Getting started: 2 to 3 sessions per
Dr. Mercola's Comment
Of course one will not hear much of breathing
techniques in traditional medicine because no one can benefit by selling you
something to help you do it. The only cost here is time and if you have any
stress in your life this is a simple yet powerful and effective tool that you
can use to help combat it.