At yoga class I have learned “Pranayama”, the art of Yoga breathing. Basically it is deep diaphragm breathing or belly breathing. There are many benefits to diaphragm breathing which I describe below. Recently, I discovered on my own a huge new benefit for diaphragm breathing described herein. It has to do with a condition (not rare) I have had for about 15 years called Tachycardia (similar to atrial fibrillation) both of which cause a sudden high rapid increase in heart beat up to 250 bpm in some people. In my case my heartbeat during an episode is lower about 120 bpm. An episode could be brought on by stress, caffeine, even decaff tea or coffee, dehydration (hot weather can cause problems I have found), or it occurs for no particular reason and it could last for minutes or hours. And many running athletes have developed or will develop this condition. There is a good chance I got my condition from running. Even if you don’t have this condition─some daily diaphragm breathing exercises daily have many healthy advantages.
To stop this high rapid heartbeat which could continue for hours, I normally lie down, relax, think calm thoughts, with feet above the heart, and/or take a prescribed pill, e.g., Propranolol (Inderal). I have been told that tensing the body might help to stop the high beat and slight weakness, but this is entirely useless. If it continues for about 3 hours (this is rare) I normally would go to emergency, but then they would keep me for about 4 hours while checking me out. I have missed some very important races particularly in hot climates (e.g., Los Vegas, Utah (Huntsman‘s Games), Sacramento, and Winston Salem (this year) ─when my heart would not return to normal before the race. In these cases, I would have deep concern that I would not recover in time before the race so the extra stress does not help recovery.
So I was very happy and elated to discover on my own that deep diaphragm breathing would return me to normal even after just 1 or 2 deep diaphragm type breaths in some cases, without the use of medication or at least considerably shorten the duration. I have found this method, done correctly, even works sometimes when I feel an episode coming on, stopping it before it takes over. I urge all people with Tachycardia or Atrial Fibrillation to use this simple technique described below to prevent or eliminate an episode to shorten the length of an episode. This also results in less use of medication which has some adverse side effects. If I use the medication (Propranolol also called Inderal I have much less energy for running on the day I take a pill. I call my method DDBST (Deep Diaphragm Breathing Stops Tachycardia.) It works for me. However, I do not claim it will work for everyone with this condition.
Also it has occurred to me that some meditation every morning including deep diaphragm breathing, putting one in a relaxed frame of mind, should help to prevent an episode during the day. One good recommendation for diaphragm breathing is 3 to 4 sessions per day and 5 to 10 breaths at a session─ or 5 to 10 breaths before sleeping and when you wake up should also be preventative for a Tachycardia or Atrial Fibrillation episode. For those without these heart problems perhaps refer this article to a friend or parent who might have this condition. Otherwise, see the major advantages of diaphragm breathing below which would be of interest to all.
THE METHOD. Diaphragm breathing or basic Pranayama is described below:
The diaphragm is dome shaped like a parachute of thin muscle separating the lungs and heart from the abdominal region. See the diagram below.
1. On inhaling deeply and slowly for about 3 seconds the diaphragm contracts moving downwards compressing the abdominal space below allowing the stomach to rise and allowing more space for the lungs to expand. This lowers the pressure in the lung area assisting inhalation. Don’t tense the stomach─ letting it rise naturally and gradually. Think and visualize the diaphragm moving downwards and the stomach as a balloon filling with air. See the attached diagrams. The chest or shoulders should not move or breathing is incorrect. The incoming oxygen provides energy and nutrients to all organs.
2. There is a short pause before exhaling.
3. On exhaling slowly for about 3 seconds or slightly longer─ the diaphragm constricts and moves upwards pushing out air, while the stomach and abdomen recedes naturally. See the attached diagrams. Think and visualize the diaphragm moving upwards. The CO2 and toxins exiting, detox the body.
4. There is a short pause at end of exhale.
In my method to stop Tachycardia or Atrial fibrillation the inhale is deeper than normal diaphragm breathing, and the pauses 2 and 4 above are slightly exaggerated. The exhale is slightly longer than the inhale but not overly long as this could cause a shortness of CO2 which in turn causes less oxygen to the brain, heart and other extremities. Stop the longer exhale if feeling dizzy or any other problems. Breathing is normally through the nose. During breathing if possible, make some breathing noise at top of your throat, not too load and not too soft; it is like a muffled ocean roar. This is considered an important part of diaphragm breathing. Some practise is recommended to master the correct diaphragm breathing technique. In early sessions start with lying on your back with a book on your stomach. Progress doing practise while sitting, then standing with back to a wall, slow walking, and then fast walking. When the technique is mastered in fast walking I suspect? it should become natural in running.
OTHER BENEFITS OF DEEP DIAPHRAGM BREATHING
– Calms the nervous system and improves your mood. Use it when stressed or anxious, before an important meeting, before giving a speech, etc.
– It brings in more oxygen to the muscles, heart and other organs making them healthier and stronger. More oxygen means more energy.
– The slightly greater exhale and more efficient lungs improve toxin removal. The contractions of the diaphragm stimulate the lymph nodes and increases toxin removal from the lymphatic system. (My DDBST works at least for me possibly because the greater movement of the diaphragm may be also exercising or stimulating the heart.) The increased toxin and healthier organs removal increases longevity.
– The greater access to the more efficient lower lungs compared to upper lungs results in greatly increased gas exchange or lung capacity.
– Athletic benefit. Use it just before a competition to calm yourself. “Every sport has a moment when your focus and concentration needs to be maximized.” (Okanagan Peak Performance Strength and Conditioning)
– Miscellaneous. Lowers blood pressure, increases circulation, strengthens intestinal and abdominal muscles, improves posture, improves sleep, and reduces pain. Some claim it reduces risk of heart disease and cancer. In a yoga session when a pose is stressful─ diaphragm breathing will make you forget the discomfort.
Deep diaphragm breathing is recommended as a good health practice for everyone, usually 10 breaths every day before sleeping and on waking. Or practice at any spare moment during the day is a healthy habit. Use it during meditation. During these sessions think of the diaphragm moving and also the many advantages of deep diaphragm breathing.