Articles of Interest

Here are some articles I found (and a couple we wrote) on the relationship of breathing to stress reduction and anxiety avoidance. There’s a lot of “science” that supports the many benefits of proper breathing; these articles will go into the details of how it all can work for you.  Please write to me if you would like to submit an article that you feel contributes to the overall goal of this site: helping others who are adversely affected by one or more of these disorders.



Breathe Some Life Into Your Life

Health benefits abundant if you remember to breathe

By: Joel McPherson, MA, HRM 

Would you be interested in a free method for increased energy, reduced stress, an end to panic attacks, and even an improved complexion? No medications or equipment to buy, no extensive training required!

You already own the required equipment – your lungs. Studies show that simply learning how to breathe correctly can have remarkable effects throughout your body.

Breathing correctly can be as powerful as it is simple. The typical person only uses around twenty percent of their lung capacity, but with practice, they can learn how to tap into their lung’s full potential. Sending better oxygen content to all the cells of the body can bring dramatic changes in general health and mood. Famous health guru, Dr. Andrew Weil, says that if he could only give one tip for better health, it would be to breathe properly. Proper breathing technique is central to the ancient practices of Yoga, Qi Gong, Ayurveda and other meditation disciplines. A clinical study* of thousands of participants over a 30-year period presents convincing evidence that the most significant factor in peak health and long life is how well you breathe. Breathing correctly is critical in maintaining the level of oxygen for energy, keeping the correct pH levels in the body, and enough carbon dioxide for bodily functions. Healthy people make 93 per cent of their energy aerobically (“in the presence of oxygen,”) but poor breathing habits can reduce the amount of energy made aerobically to 84 per cent. Seventy percent of the elimination of wastes from the body is through breathing. The good news is that poor breathing habits can be reversed. Among infants, correct breathing comes naturally. Observe a baby as it breathes to see its belly rise and fall with each breath. As we grow older, we are taught to “suck in that gut” and “puff out that chest” as we try to achieve as slim a waist as possible. Such resistance to the natural breathing posture restricts oxygen intake, which can lead to numerous physical as well as emotional problems.

“Bad” Breathing

Shallow “chest breathing” invites problems by delivering less air per breath into the lungs. Less air per breath leads to a higher number of breaths, putting in motion a series of physiological changes that constrict blood vessels. An imbalance between the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the lungs delivers less oxygen to the brain, the heart, and the rest of the body. Carbon dioxide (CO2,) is a vital gas that is produced by the body’s energy source: metabolism. The body’s ability to maintain a normal pH (the balance between acid and alkaline that regulates the body’s chemical reactions) depends on maintaining an adequate supply of CO2.

Too much oxygen and not enough carbon dioxide can create an agitated state. As you learn to exhale slowly, you conserve carbon dioxide and rebalance the system. However, too much carbon dioxide, and not enough oxygen, can create feelings of fatigue and depression. Learning to inhale slowly re-balances your system by taking in more oxygen. In extreme cases, a restricted supply of oxygen can contribute to anxiety, panic attacks, and even phobias. Less productive exhaling can also result in a buildup of toxins that would have been eliminated through breathing.

Stress, anxiety, and emotions all affect our breathing – the natural “fight or flight” response that increases respiration. As “civilized” people, we typically do not calm such state of arousal with immediate physical activity. Once breathing is in an aroused state, the physiological effects on the body remain after the stressful event has gone. Such arousal promotes rapid breathing leading to a metabolic imbalance where CO2 levels are too low and oxygen use is poor. The key element to many meditation disciplines is that breathing technique can affect one’s emotional state as much as one’s emotional state can affect one’s breathing.

“Bad breathing” is also performed through the mouth rather than the nose, especially during exercise or a stressful situation. Breathing through the mouth permits inhaling and exhaling large volumes of air quickly. This can lead to hyperventilation, diminished energy, and a weakening of health and well-being.

“Good” Breathing

It is easy to develop good breathing habits, but it takes practice. Most of us are completely unaware of our breathing – otherwise we would have to remember to inhale over 17,000 times a day! Breathing awareness and practice, or “breathwork,” is an important part of training for athletes, musicians, vocalists, and public speakers.

To achieve normal levels of oxygen and CO2 in your system, you begin by focusing your attention on breath! Your goal is to reduce the number of respirations from a standard of 12 per minute to as few as four per minute – which can be achieved with practice. Deep, slow breathing will feel unnatural to many who first try it and may be uncomfortable to some. After years of shallow “chest breathing,” some have a low CO2 concentration leaving them with a tight chest and malfunctioning diaphragm.

A slow inhale, followed by holding the breath, and concluding with an exhale twice as long as the inhale will help balance the CO2 level. One technique is called “4-7-8 Breathing” in which you inhale to the count of four, hold the breath to the count of seven, and slowly exhale to the count of eight. The slow exhale is key to most forms of breathwork, and critical to achieving stress reduction.

Bad Advice

“Take a deep breath” can be very bad advice to someone who is feeling anxious or is agitated. If such a person begins taking deep breaths, they are likely to experience an even more aroused state. A person prone to anxiety most likely is at or over their optimum CO2 level and needs to slow their respiration more than increase their intake volume through “take a deep breath.”

Such advice can lead to hyperventilation (breathing too fast.) The amount of carbon dioxide in blood generally regulates breathing and a low level of CO2 tends to make the nervous system more excitable. If carbon dioxide is released too rapidly, the arteries and blood vessels constrict and an insufficient supply of oxygen to the cells results, including blood (and oxygen) supply to the brain. Restricting oxygen supply to the brain can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) and cause tension, anxiety, and mood swings. Low levels of oxygen in the brain has been associated with depression and other changes in brain waves.

Remembering to Breathe

Learning the proper breathing technique is important – remembering to practice that technique can become even more important. On a typical day, it is easy to become focused on a task (such as the computer or driving) and forget to breathe properly. The tendency is to revert into shallow “chest breathing” when focused. Regularly practicing diaphragmatic breathing, with measured inhale and exhale, and it will become the only breathing you do. But, like anything else, proper breathing is a learned skill and practice is critical.

Getting “lost” at a computer keyboard or within the pages of a good book happens to everyone. You will need a timer or similar alarm to remind you on a regular basis throughout the day to practice this skill. Kitchen timers work well as does a wristwatch alarm or cell phone alarm. As these require resetting and the audible alarm can be embarrassing in some situations, there is a “personal breathing coach” device on the market with a discreet, silent alarm ( that is effective.

Internet Articles regarding diaphragmatic breathing abound on the Internet. In addition to the many health benefits achieved through proper breathing technique, there are numerous web sites devoted to breathwork for sports, public speaking, singing, and musical instruments. Many sites incorporate breathwork into practice of meditation as well as natural healing and holistic medicine modalities. Search breathwork, diaphragmatic breathing, or simply healthy breathing to find an extensive array of materials.

Unfortunately, this information is not widespread in today’s medical community. Illness and Pathology, not Wellness, are the priority of most healthcare practitioners. In addition, things that are free and can’t be patented (like breathing) do not attract funding for research, so little finds its way into popular medical journals.

Breathe Some Life Into It

Breathwork is free and you already own the necessary equipment (lungs) so you can practice virtually anytime anywhere. You first want to evaluate your current normal breathing pattern, and then learn diaphragmatic breathing skills, and then to pace your breathing. Once you have achieved that level, the “trick” is to remember to practice your breathing and to perform it correctly. With time, these skills become your normal method of breathing and you begin to breathe some life into your life!



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Humor and Health

By: Paul E. McGhee, PhD


“The art of medicine consists of keeping the patient amused while nature heals the disease.” (Voltaire)

[Adapted from Health, Healing and the Amuse System: Humor as Survival Training, 1999. Call 800-228-0810 to order, or see]

Voltaire (and your grandmother) recognized long ago that humor and laughter are good for you. You’ve probably noticed yourself that you simply feel better after a good belly laugh. The problem, of course, is that your sense of humor generally abandons you right when you need it the most–on the tough days. But if you manage to bring your sense of humor to your daily conflicts on your job, your relationship with your spouse and children, and your health or financial problems, you’ll go a long way toward improving the quality of your life; and you’ll boost your physical health and well-being in the ways discussed here.

Psychoneuroimmunology and Humor Every year, there is more evidence that your thoughts, moods, emotions, and belief system have a fundamental impact on the body’s basic health and healing mechanisms. Much of that evidence is discussed in current literature.

Whether or not you get sick depends on your body’s ability to fight off infection and disease. In 1980 (prior to the discovery of the AIDS virus), the departing editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Franz Ingelfinger, estimated that 85% of all human illnesses are curable by the body’s own healing system. We now know that building a positive focus in your life plays an important role in supporting the body’s ability to do this.

The body’s healing system responds favorably to positive attitudes, thoughts, moods, and emotions (e.g., to love, hope, optimism, caring, intimacy, joy, laughter, and humor), and negatively to negative ones (hate, hopelessness, pessimism, indifference, anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc.). So you want to organize your life to maintain as positive a focus as possible.

Emotion: The Key to the Mind’s Influence on Health Candace Pert noted in Bill Moyers’ Healing and the Mind television series (and more recently in her book, The Molecules of Emotion) that emotions–registered and stored in the body in the form of chemical messages–are the best candidates for the key to the health connection between mind and body. It is through the emotions you experience in connection with your thoughts and daily attitudes–actually, through the neurochemical changes that accompany these emotions–that your mind acquires the power to influence whether you get sick or remain well.

The key, according to Pert, is found in complex molecules called neuropeptides. Peptides are found throughout the body, including the brain and immune system. These neuropeptides are the means by which all cells in the body communicate with each other. This includes brain-to-brain messages, brain-to-body messages, body-to-body messages, and body-to-brain messages. Individual cells, including brain cells, immune cells, and other body cells, have receptor sites that receive neuropeptides. The kinds of neuropeptides available to cells are constantly changing, reflecting variations in your emotions throughout the day.

The exact combinations of neuropeptides released during different emotional states have not yet been determined. The kind and number of emotion-linked neuropeptides available at receptor sites of cells influence your probability of staying well or getting sick. Building more humor and laughter in your life helps assure that these chemical messages are working for you, not against you.

“The chemicals that are running our body and our brain are the same chemicals that are involved in emotion. And that says to me that . . . we’d better pay more attention to emotions with respect to health.” (Candace Pert)

There is no longer any doubt that your daily mood or frame of mind makes a significant contribution to your health–especially when it persists day after day, year after year. Anything you can do to sustain a more positive, upbeat frame of mind in dealing with the daily hassles and problems in your life contributes to your physical health at the same time that it helps you cope with stress and be more effective on the job. Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.

How Humor Contributes to Health The mere fact that you feel better after a good laugh is enough for many to conclude that humor must be good for you. But new evidence confirms what our grandparents knew all along. Your sense of humor not only enriches life; it also promotes physical, mental and spiritual health.

Muscle Relaxation Research has shown that muscle relaxation results from a good belly laugh. One study even showed that people using a biofeedback apparatus were able to relax muscles more quickly after watching funny cartoons than after looking at beautiful scenery. You can see this effect in your own laughter, if you look for it. In my keynote addresses, I have a routine in which I get everyone in the room doing belly laughter for half a minute. Afterwards, I ask them what changes they notice in their bodies. The first comment is usually, “I feel a lot more relaxed.” The next time you have a good long laugh, look for this feeling of relaxation and reduced tension.

Reduction of Stress Hormones When you’re under stress, your body undergoes a series of hormonal and other body changes which make up the “fight or flight” response. Even though there’s no physical threat to your life, your body reacts as if there were. If you’re under stress day after day, this preparation for a vigorous physical response (which never occurs) itself begins to pose a threat–to your health! Anything, which reduces the level of stress hormones in the blood on a regular basis, helps reduce this health threat.

“There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun.” (Josh Billings)

The limited research on stress-related hormones and humor has shown that laughter reduces at least four neuroendocrine hormones associated with the stress response, including epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone. This is consistent with research showing that various relaxation procedures reduce stress hormones.

Immune System Enhancement It has long been recognized that stress weakens the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to illness. Only in the mid 1980s, however, did researchers begin to study the impact of humor and laughter on the immune system. The best evidence that humor boosts the immune system comes from studies where immune system measures are taken before and after a particular humorous event–usually a comedy video. But research showing that individuals with a better sense of humor have stronger immune systems is also significant, since it shows the importance (for your health) of making the effort to improve your sense of humor.

Immunoglobulins The greatest amount of research to date has focused on immunoglobulin A, a part of your immune system which serves to protect you against upper respiratory problems, like colds and the flu. Our saliva contains IgA, and this is often referred to as the body’s first line of defense against upper respiratory viral and bacterial infections. Several studies have shown that watching as little as 30 or 60 minutes of a comedy video is enough to increase both salivary IgA and blood levels of IgA.

This has been shown for both adults and children. Immunoglobulins M and G have also been shown to be enhanced as a result of humor/laughter. Laughter even increases levels of a substance called Complement 3, which helps antibodies pierce through defective or infected cells in order to destroy them.

Cellular Immunity Several different aspects of the cellular immune system have also been shown to be enhanced by watching a comedy video. B cells are produced in the bone marrow, and are responsible for making the immunoglobulins. If you count the number of these cells in the blood before and after a comedy video, you can demonstrate a significant increase in the number of B cells circulating throughout the body following humor.

Watching a one-hour humorous video also increases the activity–and number–of natural killer cells, the number and level of activation of helper T-cells, and the ratio of helper to suppresser T-cells. Natural killer cells have the role of seeking out and destroying tumor cells in the body, as well as battling the latest cold- and flu-generating viruses and other foreign organisms.

Humor has also been shown to increase levels of gamma interferon, a complex substance that plays an important role in the maturation of B cells, the growth of cytotoxic T cells, and the activation of NK cells. It also tells different components of the immune system when to become more active, and regulates the level of cooperation between cells of the immune system.

Taken as a whole, it’s clear that there is something about humor and laughter that causes the immune system to “turn on” metabolically and do more effectively what it is designed to do–promote health and wellness in the face of internal or external threats.

Duration of Humor-Induced Immuno-enhancement – Only a few studies have examined the duration of the immuno-enhancement effects of humor. This may be an artificial question, since emotional changes are known to cause fluctuations in the immune system, and your emotional state generally depends on whether or not you’re dealing with anything stressful at the moment. If something happens to make you angry or anxious soon after watching a comedy video, this counteracts the immune benefits resulting from the video. This is where the strength of your own sense of humor comes in. If you are able to find a light side of the situation, you sustain the immunoenhancing benefits resulting from the humor you’ve been exposed to.

The limited research along these lines suggests that a strengthened immune system is sustained for 30 minutes for IgA, IgG, number of B cells, activation and number of T cells, activation and number of natural killer cells, and gamma-interferon. The immunoenhancement effect was still present 12 hours later for IgA, IgG, number of B cells, complement 3 and gamma-interferon. No attempt has been made to study durations beyond 12 hours.

Sense of Humor and Immunity Given all the evidence that watching a humorous video strengthens different components of the immune system, it makes sense that individuals who have a better developed sense of humor–meaning that they find more humor in their everyday life, seek out humor more often, laugh more, etc.–should have a stronger immune system, because they get more of the kinds of benefits offered by watching a comedy video by exercising their sense of humor more often. Consistent with this expectation, three studies have shown that individuals with higher scores on a sense of humor test have higher “baseline levels” of IgA.

“The simple truth is that happy people generally don’t get sick.” (Bernie Siegel, M.D.)

Humor’s ability to protect you against immunosuppression during stress was evident in a study, which compared people with a well-developed sense of humor (they found a lot of humor in their everyday life or frequently used humor to cope with stress) to people with a poor sense of humor. Among those who rarely found humor in their own lives, especially when under stress, greater numbers of everyday hassles and negative life events were associated with greater suppression of their immune system (IgA). Among those with a well-developed sense of humor, on the other hand, everyday hassles and problems did not weaken the immune system. Their sense of humor helped keep them from becoming more vulnerable to illness when under stress.

Pain Reduction Norman Cousins drew the attention of the medical community to the pain-reducing power of humor in his book Anatomy of an Illness. This spinal disease left him in almost constant pain. But he quickly discovered while watching comedy films that belly laughter eased his pain. In his last book, Head First: The Biology of Hope, he noted that 10 minutes of belly laughter (just counting the laughing time) would give him two hours of pain-free sleep. Over a dozen studies have now documented that humor does have the power to reduce pain in many patients.

“Humor is the instinct for taking pain playfully.” (Max Eastman)

Many patients discover this in their own experience. Rheumatoid arthritis patients who report more chronic pain, for example, also say they look for humor more often in everyday life. They’ve learned that humor helps manage their pain. Consistent with this idea, one study showed that when elderly residents of a long-term care facility watched funny movies, the level of pain they experienced was reduced.

In a study of 35 patients in a rehabilitation hospital, 74% agreed with the statement, “Sometimes laughing works as well as a pain pill.” The patients had such conditions as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, arthritis, limb amputations, and a range of other neurological or musculoskeletal disorders.

“A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast.” (Groucho Marx)

For those who do experience pain reduction following laughter, why does it occur? One possibility is distraction. Humor draws attention away from the source of discomfort–at least momentarily. The most commonly given explanation, however, is that laughter causes the production of endorphins, one of the body’s natural pain killers. This explanation makes good sense, but as of 1999, no one has been able to demonstrate it with data. Investigators who have tried to show the endorphin-humor connection have failed to do so.

Regardless of whether laughter does or does not cause the release of endorphins into the blood stream, its ability to reduce pain is undoubtedly partly due to its reduction of muscle tension. Even brief relaxation procedures have been shown to reduce pain–both in laboratory and clinical settings. Many pain centers around the country now use meditation and other relaxation techniques to reduce the level of pain medication needed by patients. Laughter is just one additional technique for achieving the same effect.

Other Benefits Laughter also provides an excellent source of cardiac exercise. The next time you’re having a good belly laugh, put your hand over your heart when you stop laughing. You’ll see that your heart is racing, even after 15-20 seconds of laughter. It will remain elevated for 3-5 minutes. This has caused some to refer to laughter as “internal jogging.”

You can give your heart a good workout several times a day, just by laughing. One physician noted that his patients who say they laugh regularly have lower resting heart rates. While this is no substitute for real exercise, many seniors and bed-ridden patients don’t have the option of other forms of physical exercise. For them, laughter is FUNdamental to good cardiac conditioning.

Other physical health benefits may result from humor and laughter, but scientists have been very slow in looking for them. Laughter may turn out, for example, to help lower blood pressure. As your heart beats more rapidly during laughter, it pumps more blood through your system, producing the familiar flushed cheeks. Not surprisingly, blood pressure increases during laughter, with larger increases corresponding to more intense and longer-lasting laughs. If this were a lasting increase, it might be harmful.

When laughter stops, however, blood pressure drops back down to its baseline. Given the relaxation effect of laughter, laughter may help bring blood pressure levels below one’s baseline. At this point, however, researchers have made little effort to examine this possibility.

Laughter triggers a peculiar respiratory pattern which offers health benefits for certain individuals. In normal relaxed breathing, there is a balance between the amount of air you take in and breathe out. The problem is that when you are not breathing deeply, a considerable amount of residual air remains in the lungs. When you’re under stress, breathing becomes even shallower and more rapid, reducing the amount of oxygen taken in and producing a still greater amount of residual air. This breathing also occurs more from the chest, instead of the diaphragm. (Relaxation techniques emphasize the importance of breathing from the diaphragm.)

As this residual air stays in the lungs for longer periods of time, its oxygen content drops and the level of water vapor and carbon dioxide increases. The health risk here arises for individuals prone to respiratory difficulties, since the increased water vapor creates a more favorable environment for bacterial growth and pulmonary infection.

Frequent belly laughter reduces this risk by emptying your lungs of more of the air that’s taken in. When you laugh, you push air out of your lungs until you can’t push out any more. Then you take a deep breath and start the same process all over again. Each time you laugh, you get rid of the excess carbon dioxide and water vapor that’s building up and replace it with oxygen-rich air.

Hospitalized patients with respiratory problems are often encouraged to breathe deeply and exhale fully, but nurses have difficulty getting them to do so. Most patients enjoy a good laugh, though, so many nurses have learned to tell them a joke from time to time or give them a comedy tape to view.

Emphysema and other respiratory patients often have a build-up of phlegm or mucous in their respiratory tracts. Nurses try to get them to cough to loosen up and expel these substances, but they generally don’t enjoy coughing, so the phlegm builds up. When they laugh, however, they inevitably start coughing, producing exactly the effect the nurses want–and the patients have a good time in the process.

Do People with a Good Sense of Humor Get Sick Less Often?

We have seen that humor and laughter positively influence our body in ways that should sustain health, but little research has been done on whether a better sense of humor actually helps keep you from getting sick. However, since people with a better sense of humor have higher IgA levels, and since research has shown that those with higher levels of salivary IgA are less likely to get colds or be infected with Streptococcus, humor should reduce the frequency of colds.

The only study to directly examine this question found that the impact of one’s sense of humor upon colds depends on the kind of sense of humor you have. It was only individuals whose sense of humor took the form of seeking out and appreciating humor who had fewer and less severe colds/flu than their low humor counterparts.

Surprisingly, those whose sense of humor took the form of initiating humor more often did not have fewer or less severe colds/flu. The researchers argued that being a person who likes to tell jokes or otherwise initiate humor takes them into more frequent contact with other people, which serves to expose them to infectious agents more often, robbing them of the advantage that a more active sense of humor otherwise offers. Obviously, more research is required to clear up this confusing picture.

The importance of active use of one’s sense of humor in producing humor’s health benefits was confirmed in another study in an unusual way. It found that among a group of mothers with newborn infants, those who actively used humor to cope with the stress in their lives had fewer upper respiratory infections–and their infants also had fewer infections. This seemed to be because these mothers had higher levels of immunoglobulin A in their breast milk.

Consistent with this finding, another study showed that mothers with low levels of IgA at the time of birth had babies who showed more illnesses in the first six weeks postpartum. So breast-feeding mothers now have all the more reason to build plenty of laughter in their life every day.

Among adults, if we look at bodily symptoms alone, independent of any diagnosed illness, there is some evidence that individuals who have more negative reactions to humor (finding a lot of different types of humor aversive or objectionable) report more bodily symptoms and complaints. Students complaining of cardiovascular symptoms and gastroenterological symptoms also have been shown to have this more negative reaction to humor.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) has long been linked to the so-called Type A personality. One pair of researchers observed over 25 years ago that only type B individuals use humor as a coping tool in dealing with stress and hostile feelings. Hostile humor has also been found to be the main kind of humor enjoyed by Type A patients, while Type B patients enjoy non-hostile as well as hostile humor. This is consistent with the findings showing a close relationship between hostility and heart disease. While laughter at hostile humor must provide some of the benefits described above for CHD-prone individuals, those benefits are clearly not enough to offset the bodily effects caused by hostility to begin with. Developing non-hostile aspects of one’s sense of humor to counteract this effect is essential for Type A individuals.

Learning to Use Humor to Cope with Stress

The biggest obstacle to obtaining these benefits of humor in your own life is the growing stress on your job and in your personal relationships–and perhaps the fact that you’ve never made an effort to develop a good sense of humor. Humor is well-documented to be a powerful tool in coping with life stress, but how do you go about developing this skill if you don’t already have it?

I have developed a hands-on Humor Skills Training Program, which shows you how to develop the basic foundation skills you need in order to use humor as a coping tool. The skill development program is presented in my book, Health, Healing and the Amuse System: Humor as Survival Training. Use the phone number at the beginning of this article to order the book. I have also provided guidelines on developing humor skills at my web site,

[NOTE: To obtain the original references for the research discussed here, or to obtain more information on the physical and mental health benefits of humor, see Dr. McGhee’s book, Health, Healing and the Amuse System. “Additional information on humor and health is available at Dr. McGhee’s website,] Paul McGhee, PhD, is currently president of The Laughter Remedy, in Wilmington, Delaware. He is internationally known for his research on humor, and has published 11 books on humor. He now works full time as a professional speaker providing programs to hospitals and corporations on the benefits of humor, giving special attention to how humor helps cope with stress and sustain peak performance and quality of service or care on the tough days. To arrange for a program for your group, contact him at 302-478-7500. You can also contact him through his web site at


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Better Living Through Belly Breathing

Seattle Times, May 10, 2000, Section C3

By: Carol Krucoff

Slow, deep breathing is a powerful anti-stress technique. When you bring air down into the lower portion of the lungs, where the oxygen exchange is most efficient, heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, muscles relax, anxiety eases and the mind calms.

Experts in the field of mind-body medicine say that few people in Western, industrialized society know how to breathe correctly. We are taught to suck in our guts and puff out our chests, which causes the muscles to tense and respiration rate to increase. As a result, we are a nation of shallow “chest breathers,” who primarily use the middle and upper portions of the lungs. Babies breathe from the belly, but with age, most people shift from this healthy abdominal breathing to shallow chest breathing.

Breathing is the only bodily function you can do either consciously or unconsciously. Studies have linked focused breathing with reducing hot flashes in menopausal women, relieving chronic pain and reducing symptoms of PMS. Some hospitals have begun teaching relaxation breathing to patients treated for a wide range of conditions.



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How Often Should You Take A Deep Breath?

By: Janice A. McPherson

  • Too often and you actually can induce stress.
  • Too seldom, and you fail to benefit from it.


At this point, you want to learn how to breathe correctly so it becomes natural and automatic to you. You will need to practice doing it right and most therapists agree that each breath should be performed correctly to achieve maximum benefit.

It is important to breathe correctly, but not too much. As mentioned above, too much can make you dizzy. That is one of the big problems in a panic attack, the rapid, shallow breathing causes an oxygen overload, which actually gets you light-headed, and then fearful of that sensation (it feeds itself.)

Experiment yourself: (and if you try this, please sit safely in a chair) take a full, deep breath then hold it for a few seconds, then slowly exhale. Repeat this several times and you will start to feel different and quite possibly dizzy. You will see that changing your breathing technique and respiration intervals can have an immediate effect.

How do you remember to breathe at the right intervals? We mentioned this earlier, but remember that, with practice, you will learn how to breathe “correctly” all the time. It is important to learn inhale properly, how to breathe into your diaphragm, and how to slowly measure your exhale. This takes practice for it to become a natural part of your respiration. And, if done correctly and regularly, you will begin to receive positive health benefits such as lowered blood pressure, less stress, and a general relaxed state. The BreathMinder® will help you remember to practice and soon, proper breathing will come naturally to you.

Much more information about breathing can be found at along with suggested reading and some good recordings. Many people with stress-related problems, anxiety and panic disorder, phobias, etc. have found almost instant relief through controlled breathing technique.



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Optimal Health & The Fight Against Stress

By: Beverly Beuermann-King

‘Health is wholeness and balance, an inner resilience that allows you to meet the demands of living without being overwhelmed.’ Weil, 1997

Optimal health allows you to come into contact with germs and not get infections. You can be in touch with allergens and not suffer allergies. Optimal health should bring a sense of strength and joy, even amidst the day-to-day stresses of life. It is more than just the absence of disease. Health involves good health care, self-awareness, living according to our values and beliefs, being your own best friend, realizing the value of family, friends and co-workers, and enjoying an enthusiasm for work, growth and life. The mind-body connection is just starting to be unraveled. The mind and the body are one and the same. The brain receives information about the external world and from within the body. It interprets it, makes decisions about what to do, and directs the body to respond accordingly. The brain also responds to its own activity and these thoughts can have a potent effect on the body. The physical problems rooted in our thoughts are no less real than a cut finger. Our body reacts in the same way to a perceived threat as to a real one. It can not distinguish between worrisome thoughts and a ‘real’ stress. Health is dynamic, apt to break down as conditions change. Optimal health though, allows us to quickly come back to order by having a strong healing system. Our healing system therefore must involve both strategies for the body and the mind. For more information on this article, see





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Slow Breathing Device Can Lower Blood Pressure

-Reuters News Service

NEW YORK (Reuters Health, October 19, 2004) – The use of a device to assist with slow breathing is associated with a reduction in blood pressure in hypertensive patients, according to a report in the October issue of The Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

Previous studies using the portable device have shown its effectiveness in reducing blood pressure, the authors explain, but whether a minimum duration of slow breathing is required to lower blood pressure has not been determined.

Dr. William J. Elliott, and colleagues from Rush Medical College in Chicago, investigated whether there was a minimum duration of slow, device-guided breathing to obtain a significant lowering of blood pressure in a study of 149 hypertensive patients randomized to the use of the device or simple blood pressure monitoring. In all patients who received the device and had blood pressures measured, there was a significant relationship between the duration of slow breathing and the degree of systolic blood pressure lowering, the authors report.

Patients who used the device for at least 180 minutes over the 8-week study (approximately 23 minutes/week) experienced a mean systolic blood pressure lowering of 15.0 mm Hg, compared with a 7.3-mm Hg lowering among patients who used the device less than 180 minutes during the study.

The high users (>180 minutes) achieved breathing rates below 10 breaths/minute approximately 61 minutes/week, the researchers note, compared with only 22 minutes/week of slowed breathing among the low users. The slow breathing time was consistent throughout the study for high users, but it declined among low users to the extent that 78% of low users did not use the device at all during the last week.

Even among high users, the device was used only about half the recommended time of 45 minutes/week.

“These data suggest that isolated systolic hypertension, which may be the most difficult form of hypertension to control, can be significantly improved by device-guided slow breathing when performed as recommended,” the authors conclude.

“Larger and longer studies will be needed to demonstrate the utility of device-guided slow breathing in the long-term control of hypertension,” they add.



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Clinical Studies About The Importance Of Optimal Breathing

By: Michael White

For over 30 years, exciting data has been collected that supports the importance of good breathing for peak health and longevity.

Sadly, a number of factors have kept this information from entering the mainstream of medical practice. First of all, studies that focus on wellness are still not the primary focus of most medical training, which concentrates on illness and pathological factors.

In addition, those things that can’t be patented–such as breathing–don’t typically invite research funding. And without considerable research, information doesn’t gain admittance into medical journals.

Furthermore, a good source of hard medical data about breathing has also been limited due to the reduction of autopsy rates, which diminished from 40% in 1940 to 15% in 1999. By gauging the deterioration of a person’s diaphragm, autopsies can give us valuable information about the relationship between breathing and health.

Here, however, are excerpts from some studies of interest to all who’d like to breathe–and live–more fully. They show us the way to opening our minds in this crucial area of health and well-being. Mounting Evidence Clinical studies including thousands of participants spanning a 30-year period offer persuasive evidence that the most significant factor in health and longevity is how well you breathe.

1. The Framingham study focused on the long-term predictive power of vital capacity and forced exhalation volume as the primary markers for life span. “This pulmonary function measurement appears to be an indicator of general health and vigor and literally a measure of living capacity”. Wm B. Kannel and Helen Hubert.

These researchers were able to foretell how long a person was going to live by measuring forced exhalation breathing volume, FEV1 and hypertension. We know that much of hypertension is controlled by the way we breathe. “Long before a person becomes terminally ill, vital capacity can predict life span.”

William B. Kannel of Boston School of Medicine (1981) stated, “The Framingham exam’s predictive powers were as accurate over the 30-year period as were more recent exams.” The study concluded that vital capacity falls 9 percent to 27 percent each decade depending on age, sex and the time the test is given. The study’s shortcoming was in suggesting that vital capacity cannot be maintained and or increased, even in severe cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Any opera (not necessarily voice) teacher will support the idea that breathing volume can be increased. Yet activities such as singing or sports are no guarantee of optimal breathing. In fact, they can even invite breathing blocks from gasping, forcing the exhale and breath heaving. You don’t have to learn how to sing to have a huge pair of lungs. But you DO need to know how to breathe. I maintain that if you train someone to breathe correctly, they will naturally know how to sing. I’ve never seen it fail.

You can get the complete Framingham study at the National Institute of Health’s Database.

REMINDER: Most of scientific research is and was done with rats and primates who do not breathe the same as humans. Researchers did not seem to believe at that time that one could improve one’s breathing. Many still do not believe one can improve one’s breathing. This is simply not true.

2. 29 years after the Framingham study, the same conclusions prevail. Lung Function May Predict Long Life Or Early Death How well your lungs function may predict how long you live. This finding is the result of a nearly 30-year follow-up of the association between impaired pulmonary function and all causes of mortality, conducted by researchers at the University at Buffalo. Results of the study appear in the September issue of Chest.

The purpose of the current study was to investigate the association between pulmonary function and mortality for periods that extended past 25 years, the limit of previous studies. Dr. Schunemann and colleagues also wanted to determine for how long pulmonary function is a significant predictor of mortality. Results showed that lung function was a significant predictor of longevity in the whole group for the full 29 years of follow-up.

“It is important to note that the risk of death was increased for participants with moderately impaired lung function, not merely those in the lowest quintile,” Dr. Schunemann said. “This suggests that the increased risk isn’t confined to a small fraction of the population with severely impaired lung function.” The reasons lung function may predict mortality are not clear, Dr. Schunemann said, noting that increased risk is found in persons who never smoked, as well as among smokers. “The lung is a primary defense organism against environmental toxins. It could be that impaired pulmonary function could lead to decreased tolerance against these toxins.

Researchers also have speculated that decreased pulmonary function could underlie an increase in oxidative stress from free radicals, and we know that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of many diseases.” Dr. Schunemann said the fact that a relationship does exists between lung function and risk of death should motivate physicians to screen patients for pulmonary function, even if more research is needed to determine why. “It is surprising that this simple measurement has not gained more importance as a general health assessment tool,” he noted.

From Mike: “Surprising” puts it mildly! Schunemann HJ, Dorn J, Grant BJB, Winkelstein W, Jr., Trevisan M. Pulmonary Function Is a Long-term Predictor of Mortality in the General Population 29-Year Follow-up of the Buffalo Health Study. Chest 2000;118(3)656-664.

3. Decline in FEV1 (breathing volume) by age and smoking status: facts, figures and fallacies. Thorax 1997 52:820-827.

This study shows the importance of longitudinal studies as opposed to cross sectional ones.”

This published article focused on a compilation of 83 published reports and clinical studies showing clearly that the primary measurement for lung function (FEV1) is based on cross sectional data instead of longitudinal data. This means essentially that they include sick people with widely diverse circumstances in their statistics and compile everyone’s data for mass diagnosis.

This 1997 research paper points out that, “from one low measurement of FEV1 (forced exhalation volume) in an adult, it is impossible to determine whether the reduced lung function is due to not having achieved a high maximum during early adulthood, or to having an accelerated rate of decline or to any combination of these.” “Western medical studies, via cross sectioning, continue to look for role modeling epidemiological “norms” that include the ranks of the ill. Cross sectioning is 60% effective and proven by many to be ineffective over the last 40 years.”

The health professional’s opinion can have immense personal, social, legal, and economic consequences. When it is based on information colored by sick or otherwise non-optimum healthy or inappropriately chosen individuals, the statistic(s) become weighted in favor of, or excessively influenced by, illness or what is perceived as illness, and may well be in reality, simple mechanical dysfunction. Cross sectional studies can bring the averages down and cause many who do not need the intensity, duration or style of treatment recommended by many health practitioners to be over or under medicated, or inappropriately fed, exercised, massaged or educated.


From Mike: We need to focus on how to improve breathing, not on how it became impaired. Dwelling too much on problems and pathology gets in the way of creativity and flexibility.

4. The von Ardenne studies focused on oxygen’s relationship to most major categories of illness. When your blood oxygen goes way down, you get sick, die or at least shorten your life span. This book is a masterful compilation of clinical insights and variations on breathing assessments, cofactors and some techniques of breathing development called Oxygen Multistep Therapy.

Dr. Manfred von Ardenne was a student of Dr. Otto Warburg. Warburg received the 1931 Nobel Prize for proving that cancer is anaerobic; it cannot survive in a high oxygen environment. Germs, fungi and bacteria are anaerobic as well. von Ardenne was also inspired by Karl Lohmann who discovered adenosine triphosphate, ATP, which many believe to be the human body’s main energy currency.

von Ardenne was an electron physicist who in addition to his interest in astronomy, developed quite a good reputation for cancer research . He went on to develop a process he called Oxygen Multistep Therapy. In his book of the same name, Dr. von Ardenne addressed some 150 respiratory and blood gas aspects including elements of what we might call respiratory psychophysiology.

Some studies addressed in the book are: – Dependence of O2 uptake at rest. – The O2 deficiency pulse reaction as a warning sign of a life-threatening crisis, and the lasting remedying of the crisis. – Procedures that influence and measure increases and decreases in arterial and venous O2 blood levels. – The necessary physical exercise to attain a training effect (which is less than you might expect). – Increases in brain circulation during physical strain. – Rate of blood flow in the circulation of the organs. – Various examples in changes of O2 uptake. Heart minute volume and blood flow of the organs decisive for O2 transport. – Relation of ATP concentrations in rat brains as a function of the oxygen partial pressure of the inspired air.

He graphed much of his research. Other cofactors that influence lung volume are airways hyper-responsiveness, atopy, childhood respiratory infections, air pollution, posture, subluxation of the spine, exercise, deep and superficial fascia, nutrition, occupational hazards, abuse and trauma, attitude, and age, height, weight and sex.

The Manfred von Ardenne studies are best obtained by getting his book called Oxygen Multistep Therapy. His material is good but remains primarily within the illness model instead of the wellness model.

5. Obesity And Breathing Effects of Obesity on Respiratory Resistance (increased force required to breathe and shortness of breath). Chest 1993 May,103(5):1470-1476. These findings suggest that in addition to the elastic load, obese subjects have to overcome increased respiratory resistance from the reduction in lung volume related to being overweight.

6. Numerous measurements have shown that the low pO2art resulting from stressful events of following degeneration of the lung heart system (LHS) in old age can be re-elevated up to high values. Manfred von Ardenne – Stress 1981 Vol 2 Autumn.

7. Self-evaluation of respiratory deterioration was significantly predictive of death from all causes. Kauffmann F, Annesi I, Chwalow J -Epidemiological Research Unit INSERM U 169, Villejuif, France. European Respiratory Journal 1997 Nov; 10(11):2508-2514 In other words there are ways of your telling yourself how good your breathing is and what you observe is related to how long you may live due to good or bad breathing.

8. Breathe Well Be Well. Robert Fried, Ph D. A strong collection of 18 years working with correlating hyperventilation and its relationship to many illnesses never before linked to poor breathing.

9. Dr. Otto Warburg received the 1931 Nobel price for proving that cancer is anaerobic. It does not survive in high concentrations of oxygen. A crucially important factor in breathing is the exhale, which is much more than the inhale. But contemporary lung volume measurements are inconsistent and guided by cross sectional criteria instead of longitudinal data and therefore do not adequately predict decline within individuals. This lack of insight about optimal functioning can cause people to be trained to do forced inhalations that may actually be harmful in long run.

10. Do you often catch yourself not breathing? Do you experience shallow, labored breathing; shortness of breath; a high chest; stuck, erratic, or reverse breathing? Are you unable to catch your breath? Do you have blue-tinted lips or fingernails; trouble sleeping; more than 6 -8 resting breaths per minute with 3-6 second pauses; heart beat irregularities; poor posture, mild to severe depression; tightness across your chest; excessive stress; asthma or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) symptoms; constant fatigue; chronic pain; chest pains; anger; anxiety; hyperventilation? Do you think you can’t sing or want to sing better? For more breathing-relevant studies in a free newsletter or to take the free breathing self tests and see how you compare to others, access Breathing Pattern Retraining and Exercise in Persons with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

“Smaller breaths conserve energy in the short tem but contribute to respiratory muscle fatigue and hyperinflation as the work of exercise increases or is prolonged.” “A properly designed breathing retraining program in which patients with COPD learn to control their pattern of breathing under the stress of performing different modes of exercise at increasing intensity and duration may markedly decrease dyspnea and improve gas exchange.”

This article is courtesy of Michael Grant White – OBDMT, NE, LMBT, and used here with his written permission. Michael White is the author of Secrets of Optimal Natural Breathing, Building Healthy Lungs Naturally, The Way You Breathe Can Make You Sick or Make You Well, and Sleeping and Snoring. Mike is the founder and director of The Optimal Breathing School combining key elements of Christianity, Tibetan, Hither, and Kundalini Yoga, Pranayama, Chi Kung, (Qigong), Massage therapy, meditations, Tai Chi, Karate, Reichian Therapy, Radiance Breathwork, Rebirthing, Meditation, Chanting, Toning, Operatic and Public Speaking training, and nutrition. You can read scores of articles he’s written, or reach him through his website at



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A Misconception About the Diaphragm

By: Dennis Lewis



This article, by Dennis Lewis, is a revised version of an article first published in Authentic Breathing News on November 30, 2004 I recently had an unusual exchange with a couple of singers about how the diaphragm functions in relation to singing and the human voice. For whatever reason, these people believed that the diaphragm is basically a passive organ, moved down and up mainly by the movement of the lungs and the viscera. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception among many people, and has ramifications in their lives far beyond singing and speaking. Here is a short, highly simplified description of how the diaphragm actually works.

The lungs sit on top of the diaphragm, a very powerful muscle which is fixed to the lower ribs, sternum, lumbar vertebrae (via the crura), and so on. When we inhale, and if our diaphragm is in good health, it normally contracts, and the dome of the diaphragm flattens downward (other movements by the diaphragm in other directions take place as well) against the viscera, which allows the lungs to expand to receive fresh air.

When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes upward (returns as a result of its elasticity) against the lungs, helping to expel used air from them. In other words, when we are breathing well the dome of the diaphragm first contracts downward during inhalation to allow the lungs to expand more fully, and then relaxes upward pushing on the bottom of the lungs and, along with the secondary breathing muscles, helps the lungs empty (except for the residual volume that is necessary to keep them from collapsing). The changing thoracic pressures, greatly influenced by the movements of the diaphragm, help regulate the movement of air in and out of our lungs and, of course, through our vocal cords.

If you have a tight belly, one that does not easily and freely expand outward as you inhale, the diaphragm has a more difficult time moving downward because it is being resisted by the contracted abdominal muscles and the viscera (everything touches something else and a movement or constriction in one pace influences everything around it). When you relax your belly and allow it to expand as you inhale, your viscera drop slightly down and out and the diaphragm can more easily contract downward. Then, when exhalation takes place, the diaphragm begins its upward movement of relaxation and elasticity aided by the natural movement of the belly as it returns toward the spine. All of this is called natural diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing.

If your diaphragm is weak, however, or if your abdominal muscles are contracted or held very tightly, you will have less diaphragmatic contraction and movement downward during inhalation and thus less diaphragmatic elasticity and movement upward during exhalation. As an experiment to see how your belly influences your breathing, suck in your belly now and try to inhale deeply (be careful not to do it too strenuously as you can hurt yourself). Then relax your belly, put both hands on it, and allow it to expand as you inhale. Notice any differences.

The fact is, with your belly held very tightly there will be much less downward movement of your diaphragm on inhalation since there is so much resistance from the abdominal muscles and viscera to this movement. And, if there is little downward movement on inhalation, there will be little upward movement on exhalation. So you will feel a lot of tension and effort in your breathing, which will often become less efficient, shallower, and faster, driven mainly by the secondary breathing muscles of the chest.

Unfortunately, as a result of more and more perceived mental and emotional stress in our lives, as well as the common image of the flat, hard belly that is so prevalent today, people carry a lot of unnecessary tension in their bellies, and, over time, this, combined with unnecessary tensions in the throat, chest, and back and many other factors that I discuss in my books and audio program, constricts the diaphragm and makes it difficult for it to move (a lot of this tension is created, of course, by the over stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system–our “flight or fight or freeze” response).

Over time, this diminished movement of the diaphragm becomes the norm for many people and the diaphragm in fact weakens and loses its ability to move through its entire potential range of motion (some five to six inches in the vertical direction), which means it often becomes incapable of moving fully downward or fully upward during the in-breath and the out-breath. When the diaphragm is unable to move freely and easily through its entire potential range of vertical motion, both our inhalation and our exhalation suffer and so does our voice, and eventually our health and well-being suffer as well. (Of course, it is not just the movements up and down that become restricted, it is also the horizontal and other movements and the shape and size of the diaphragm that is adversely affected.)

If one knows how to “listen,” one can hear this diminished functioning in ourselves and others while speaking, singing, chanting, and so on. For the quality and power of the sounds we make depend in large part on the quality and power of our breath. It is an interesting experiment to sense your breathing when you are very emotional and simultaneously listen to the quality, pitch, and so on of the words you speak. Also, notice the tensions in your throat. We often tense our throat muscles to speak when our breathing has become inefficient or disharmonized and we have insufficient breath. We end up with excessive tension in our vocal cords as we try to express ourselves.

Of course, there are many other factors that influence our breathing as well, some of which I have discussed on other pages of this website, and many of which I discuss in my books. The important point here is that the diaphragm is not passive; keeping it strong, in good shape, and well-harmonized with the other breathing muscles is paramount to all aspects of your life, including your ability to fully express yourself speaking or singing, and there are some simple, practical ways to do this as I discuss in my books, audio program, and on this website.





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Why Does Fear of Flying Take More Effort to Overcome?

By: Dr. R. Reid Wilson, reprinted with permission


Since the awful events of September 11, many people have been left with a fear of flying where they perhaps had no qualms about this mode of transportation before. Although this excellent article from Dr. Reid’s website was written before that tragedy, and the possibility of similar situations occurring in the future has since entered our everyday consciousness, it contains much that can help those for whom air travel is an unpleasant necessity.

Even though one out of every six adult Americans is afraid of flying, a very small percentage seek out help for their fears. For those who do confront their worries and symptoms, the task of getting more comfortable often takes significant encouragement and an extra dose of effort.

Here are some of the reasons why.

Obstacles to Achieving Comfortable Flight

  1. You may be confronting several fears at once.
  2. Your perception of risk may work against you.
  3. The media present a lopsided view of airline accidents.
  4. It is harder to gradually face your fears of flying.

Repetition of practice is crucial, but it’s costly.

1. You may be confronting several fears at once. When a person is phobic of elevators, she typically has only one fear, whether it is closed-in spaces, crowds or heights. This simple phobia means that the task of getting better is not so complicated. Few people have only one fear regarding flying. There are two broad areas of concern. Some people have trouble believing that commercial air travel is safe. And, understandably, people dislike the anxious symptoms they feel when they fly. Within those two are over two dozen fears. It’s no wonder that many people don’t even try to overcome so many obstacles to their comfortable flying.

2. Your perception of risk may work against you. Before we engage in a new or difficult activity, our minds automatically begin to assess the risk factors involved. Three criteria are common as we consider whether to move forward with action: Am I in control of the risk? Is it a big risk or many little ones? Is it familiar or unfamiliar? Commercial flight doesn’t score very well on this psychological assessment of risk. Let’s contrast flying with traveling by automobile.

First is, am I in control? People perceive that they have very little control of an airplane. They can’t get off the plane and they aren’t permitted in the cockpit. It seems much safer in a car because we can typically drive whenever we want and pull over whenever we feel like it. (By the way, that’s why some people have trouble driving over bridges or in the left hand turn lane at a stoplight-they feel trapped by not being able to quickly pull off the road.)

The second question is, will this be a big risk? In an automobile accident only a few people are injured or killed at the most. The mind perceives this as a small risk compared to the possibility of over 100 people being killed in one airline accident. In addition, being on the ground while traveling seems less risky than traveling 35,000 feet in the air.

Third, is this risk familiar? People think they have a general sense of how cars work. They know there is this engine that has pistons that produce energy that turn the wheels. We have been exposed to cars so frequently over so many years that we travel by car with little sense of risk. Flying, on the other hand, is an inherently unnatural event for humans and can seem quite mysterious. How do they put some many tons of plane, people and cargo into the air? How do they prevent collisions? What if we run out of fuel, get a flat tire, run into a storm? The complexity of commercial flight leads us to feel insecure, since we are naturally more afraid of the unknown than the known.

None of these perceptions is reflective of reality!

As you will read in the next few pages, flying is, indisputably, the safest form of modern transportation. To reduce your anxieties about commercial flight, you must challenge your perceptions of reality far more than you need to address the actual risks of flying. As you realize this, you will be well on your way to comfortable flight.

3. The media present a lopsided view of airline accidents. The media coverage of an airline accident can contribute to this problem, too. We see or read about the same airline accident repeatedly on the radio and TV and in newspaper articles. If there has been a plane crash recently, it might be shown on the evening news ten or fifteen times over the next three or four weeks. It could come across our breakfast tables every morning for days through the newspaper headlines. Seeing that traumatic event so many times, we have ample opportunity to imagine ourselves on that plane.

Dr. Arnold Barnett, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, compared the number of front-page stories in The New York Times that addressed six major sources of death:

  1. AIDS,
  2. automobiles,
  3. cancer,
  4. homicide,
  5. suicide,
  6. and commercial jets.

Over a period of a year, stories about airline accidents far outnumbered stories about any of the other five sources of death. In fact, when considering coverage on a per-death basis, the number of airline stories was sixty times the number of stories on AIDS, and over eight thousand times the number of stories about cancer, the nation’s number two killer.

Airline accidents are certainly dramatic and newsworthy, and the media serves an important function of keeping the public eye on the industry’s safety concerns. However, this kind of frequent reporting skews our sense of relative danger. We tend to associate greater exposure to a problem with our sense of how serious the problem is. It is not so much the number of people killed by a particular source that can produce our vicarious trauma. If that were true, few of us would feel safe enough to travel by car. But the greater the number of times we draw our attention to the graphic image of those deaths, and the greater the number of times we imagine ourselves involved in that event, then the stronger our chances of becoming uncomfortable.

4. It is harder to gradually face your fears of flying. We know from over twenty-five years of behavioral research that gradual exposure to fearful situations is a highly successful treatment. You can design a program for yourself that takes you through stages of exposure to components of flying: studying about the industry, visiting airports, talking with pilots, boarding stationary planes, practicing visualizations of comfortable flight. But the step between these practices and boarding a regular commercial flight is a large one. For those who have become phobic of flying and no longer travel by plane, this step requires significant courage.

5. Repetition of practice is crucial, but it’s costly. We also know that you continue to increase your comfort by continuing to practice facing your fears. If too much time passes between practices, the mind has a tendency to wander back to the fearful experiences and forget the successes. I recommend that my clients take at least one flight every three months to practice their skills during their first year after treatment. But with ticket prices for even short trips costing close to $200, this can be so expensive that people fail to reinforce their gains through practice.

Copyright 2003, reprinted with permission. Dr. R. Reid Wilson is a licensed psychologist specializing in the treatment of all anxiety disorders. He directs the Anxiety Disorders Treatment Program in North Carolina.



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Coping Skills for Managing Stress and Overcoming Anxiety

By: Rochelle Melander, Personal Coach, reprinted with permission

First things First – No matter how great you are at coping with panic and stress, no matter how helpful my list of strategies might be to you, the first steps you need to take toward healing are setting up appointments with both a physician and a therapist. See your doctor! Panic attacks can be caused by health problems and by medication as well as by emotional stress. Your doctor can help you to discern this and guide you toward taking the appropriate actions. See a therapist! If your panic stems from past emotional wounds, a therapist can work with you to heal these. In addition, a therapist can provide you with coping skills that are appropriate to your specific situation and personality. bCoping Strategies The following strategies have helped me cope with stress and alleviate panic attacks. I hope that they will be helpful to you in your own journey of healing.

  1. Eat regularly. The Panic Attack Recovery Book by Shirley Swede and Seymour Sheppard Jaffe, M.D. provides helpful dietary guidelines for preventing anxiety. They suggest that drops in blood sugar can induce panic attacks.
  2. Eliminate stimulants. Stimulants — simple sugars, caffeine, and cigarettes — can cause you to feel the symptoms of a panic attack and, for some people, can actually cause panic attacks. Limiting or eliminating your use of these stimulants can help to eliminate panic attacks.
  3. Breathe Deeply. Learn to breathe deeply. During a panic attack or in the midst of a fearful moment, people tend to take frequent shallow breaths. This style of breathing may cause you to experience tingling in our hands and feet and to feel light-headed. Taking slow, deep breaths can calm you. Put your hand on your stomach – and breathe in so that your stomach expands. Practice this. After you learn how, try taking three breaths in this way whenever you experience stress: breathe in for a count of 8 and out for a count of 7. (Note: I advocate a little different “count” while the basic technique is excellent; please review my recommendation at Breathing Properly.)
  4. Learn Creative Visualization Techniques. Creative visualization allows you to escape the stress of the moment and create a different reality. You can even fool your body into believing it is experiencing the vision in your head instead of the reality in the present. Use creative visualization to cope with panic, to image success in stressful situations, and to provide yourself with a break from the stress of daily life. As with deep breathing, the more you practice, the better you will be able to utilize this tool in the midst of a panic attack.
  5. Practice Relaxation Exercises. In my college theater classes, our teacher taught us progressive relaxation exercises. Now, this and other relaxation exercises have helped me to survive daily life and childbirth! To progressively relax yourself, find a quiet corner of your home and lie on the floor. Beginning with your toes, tense and relax each muscle group in your body – from your toes to your head. When you are completely relaxed, take a moment to notice how you feel. The more you practice this, the better you will be able to recall this feeling in the midst of a panic episode or a stressful situation.
  6. Exercise! Participating in daily exercise, such as walking, can relieve stress and alleviate panic attacks. Make the time doubly effective by using your walk as a time for prayer or meditation. Start your walk with a question to God about your life, an affirmation about yourself (“I am loved,” “I am okay,” “I am a survivor.”), or a simple prayer (“Thank You,” “Bless this moment,” “Guide me.”).
  7. Write!
    • Pick up an inexpensive notebook. Every morning, take fifteen minutes to “dump” all of your negative, stressful stuff into that notebook. Write three pages of this “stuff.”
    • Purchase a journal that you like. Each night, write five experiences or people or situations that you are grateful for. (For example, “I am grateful that I am alive,” “I am grateful that the sky was a beautiful shade of blue,” “I am grateful for the smiles of children.”)
    • Carry a small notebook in your purse. Just as you begin to experience the symptoms of panic or stress, write down the following: the situation you are in, the sensations you are feeling in your body, the thoughts you are thinking now and the thoughts you were thinking before experiencing the first symptoms, your present feelings and what you were feeling before the symptoms began. As you do this, remind yourself that what you are experiencing does not define you – it is simply something that is happening. You are not the symptom. This exercise can help you, over time, to pinpoint the causes of your panic attacks. It can also relieve the symptoms of panic attacks. (I use this exercise to control my asthma. It comes from the wonderful book Asthma Free in Twenty-One Days by Kathryn Shafer and Fran Greenfield.)


  • Connect with a friend or a support group. Talking about the stresses in your life can help to alleviate the symptoms of panic.

Connect with a coach. As a coach, I can support you in making the changes you need to minimize the stress in your life. I can also recommend additional books and resources for coping with panic. Contact me by e-mail to set up a free coaching session:



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Soy’s health benefits may not extend to reduced anxiety

By: D. Smith Bailey

While health experts tout the cardiovascular benefits of a soy-rich diet, recent research suggests the effects may be limited when it comes to mental health. In a study of male and female rats, researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta found that soy supplements decreased anxious behavior in female rats about to go into heat but had no effect on female rats who had just finished cycling. What’s more, the soy supplements appeared to increase anxious behavior in male rats.

The findings suggest that researchers need to more closely examine the claims of some marketers that soy supplements can improve mood and sexual function, say the study authors, who were lead by neuroscientist Heather B. Patisaul, PhD, now a researcher at CIIT Centers for Health Research in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. “There are a lot of clinical trials under way looking at soy’s effects on osteoporosis and cardiovascular functioning, but there aren’t any that look at mood or depression or sexual desire in women,” says Patisaul. “[This study] drives us to ask the question: Is soy effecting anxiety and depression?”

In the study, the researchers compared the behavior of male and female rats on two different soy-rich diets with control groups on a normal diet. Both soy-rich diets contained soy isoflavones–compounds commonly found in over-the-counter soy supplements that are molecularly and structurally similar to estrogen. But the second soy-rich diet also included the carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients found in whole soybeans and soy milk.

The researchers placed each rat in the center of an elevated plus-shaped maze. Two of the maze arms were walled and two were open with a drop of more than 1.5 feet to the floor. The researchers then recorded how often and for how long the rats entered the open arms–a bold act that indicates low anxiety–compared with the closed arms.

Males on the soy-rich diets spent less time in the open arms and entered the arms less often than the control males–at levels indicating they were significantly more anxious. Meanwhile, about-to-heat, or proestrous, females on both diets were the least anxious: They entered and spent more time in the open arms than either the finished-cycling or control females.

That finding makes sense, says Patisaul, considering that most animals have the highest levels of estrogen during proestrus, and previous research has found that estrogen lowers anxiety. However, the researchers found that the soy-rich diets didn’t increase estrogen levels in the proestrus rats. The researchers conjecture that instead the isoflavones enhanced the anxiety-reducing effects of estrogen already in the proestrus rats–a benefit that didn’t extend to other females in the study.
The study appears in the July issue of Behavioral Neuroscience (Vol. 119, No. 2).

2005 American Psychological Association – reprinted with permission.




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Deep Breathing – Simple But Effective

By: Beverly Beuermann-King,

Preventing illness, slowing down the aging process and living life to the fullest – these are a few of the reasons Canadians are reaching out towards a healthier lifestyle.

One of the simplest and most effective strategies is deep breathing. Though it comes naturally it doesn’t meant that we do it correctly. If you have watched babies and children when sitting or resting you will see that they breathe with their whole lungs. Most adults use around 1/3 of their lung capacity when breathing. Poor posture and chronic tension override our natural, deep rhythm. Our bodies strain for every ounce of oxygen that is taken in.

Air is the primary ‘food’ or our body and without it we would die in as little as 10 minutes. Not breathing correctly adds stress and strain to our bodies. Our natural stress response promotes breathing rapidly as the body gets excited and ready for action. Deep breathing can interrupt this stress response and promote relaxation.

Deep breathing improves the distribution of oxygen to the body’s tissues and brain. It can lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tension, bring your mind into focus and quiet the racing thoughts we tend to have and calm your mood by releasing endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers. Deep breathing is a powerful means of recharging yourself. It can convert fatigue into energy and restlessness into calmness. The ‘Complete Breath’ can be used to become emotionally calm yet physically energized. You can take in approximately ten times more air than in normal unconscious breathing.

The following are steps for the ‘Complete Breath’:

  • Lie or sit in a comfortable position
  • Place your hands, one above and one below your belly button, to help experience the filling and releasing of your entire lung capacity
  • Breathe in through your nose
  • Breathe in three parts by filling the bottom of your lungs (expand your lower stomach), then the middle, and then the top of your lungs
  •  Hold for a count of three
  • Breathe out in three parts by releasing the top, then the middle and finally the bottom
  • Your shoulders should roll slightly forward as you force all of the air from your lungs
  • Repeat this process several times a day for 5-10 breaths

Should you start to feel light-headed from the increase in oxygen to your system, shake your arms and hands vigourously to use up the extra oxygen.

Deep breathing several times a day helps to expand your lungs and increase your unconscious natural capacity during the rest of the day. It can provide energy when we experience the afternoon lull or during those sometimes dreaded meetings. It can serve as a break from the increase of stress during our day and help us to get refocused when faced with a difficult situation or project. It can also be used during an emergency to increase our capacity for problem solving and decrease the effects of the stress response such as muscle tension, headaches and increased heart rate.

Though deep breathing seems to be an incredibly simple suggestion, it an have very powerful effects. It can be done by anyone, anywhere and in any circumstance. Try it today and notice the effect it has on you. Once started, it will soon become one of the best stress busters in your arsenal.



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Health Tip: Recognizing Generalized Anxiety Disorder

By: Angela Meadows, reprinted with permission of the author

Know when to worry about your worrying (HealthDay News) — Are you constantly worrying about your health, finances, family or career? If you’ve spent at least six months fretting excessively about a number of everyday problems, you may be experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), says the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s a condition that affects about 4 million American adults.

People with GAD are consumed with worry, even when there’s no apparent trigger. It’s much more than the normal anxiety associated with daily life. People with GAD find it hard to dismiss their worry, even when they know it’s more than the situation warrants. GAD is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, muscle tension and muscle aches. You may also find you have difficultly relaxing, concentrating or sleeping, and you may startle more easily than others.

But constant worry needn’t be a way of life. GAD is often treated with medication. The condition typically occurs in conjunction with another anxiety disorder, depression or substance abuse, which will need treatment, as well.

Copyright – 2005 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.



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A Dozen Ways To Reduce Stress

By: Beverly Beuermann-King,

  1. Dare to be happy – pat yourself on the back
  2. Be Thankful for today – don’t live for retirement or wish your life away
  3. Change the way you describe your life
  4. Recover quickly – learn from your mistakes and forgive yourself
  5. Stop procrastinating – do the worst first
  6. Plan ahead – anticipate delays, line-ups, and waiting
  7. Have some “me” time each day
  8. Acknowledge and appreciate others
  9. Say what you mean, mean what you say and learn to ask for help
  10. Sleep, rest, and nap
  11. Eat for energy and enjoyment
  12. Learn to breathe deeply





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Types of Breathing

By: Leslie Owen Wilson, reprinted with permission of the author

The Importance of Breath Please check with your medical or health practitioner before you try these. If you have a medical condition or are prone to hyperventilating or dizziness, these exercises may not be for you! If you become dizzy while trying these exercises — STOP immediately and sit down and rest. These techniques have been collected from a number of different sources. Please see the resources list at the end of this page for more information. Although, I practice the following techniques, I am not a medical doctor and disclaim any liability for the use of these ideas.


Comments: We are a nation of shallow breathers! Yes, we are! We sit and don’t breathe and then wonder why we are pooped, or stressed, or can’t think, or why we are cranky. Many of us hold tension in our shoulders and when we are working intensely we breath at more shallow levels. This is not good.

The great philosopher Emmanuel Kant seemed to instinctively know that breathing aided mental activity and that life had to be balanced. He was known to go on daily vigorous walks, waving his walking stick about in the air, and taking deep breaths. While waving your arms about may look silly, moving raised arms while briskly walking or dancing lifts the diaphragm and forces you to breath deeply. Try it. It is invigorating.

Of course watch and make sure you have enough space so you don’t pop someone in the nose.

There are many different types of breathing techniques. These are illustrated both on videotapes and in self-help books. Generally the differences between the extremes of calming breathing exercises and invigorating breathing are the movements of the abdomen, the diaphragm and the exhaling processes.

In calming breathing the abdomen moves outward as the lungs and diaphragm expand. The exhaling breaths are slow, trying to exhale more than you have taken in. In its most extreme for invigorating breathing the lungs expand and the abdomen is sucked inward creating a type of vacuum as the long breaths are held and then exhaled quickly. This is supposed to raise your metabolism and create higher energy levels.

Calming breaths: — The cosmic breath, or hey, I am out of control and need help type of breathing: Minimum — 6-8 times. Close your eyes and try to relax your facial, neck and shoulder muscles by tensing them and then relaxing them. Breathe deeply through your nose and out through your mouth with long, slow exhalations. As you breathe out, count backwards in your mind from ten to one. Feel the breath deep in your abdomen. Create a mental note to go into this form of breathing in times of crisis, stress, or during the times you are hurried or feel very agitated. If possible, go and sit somewhere and say to yourself “breathe,” or write yourself a cue on your hand, or leave post-its and notes around the house, the office in the car. (And, “NO! of course you can’t close your eyes in the car, but you can at a stop light or if you are stuck in traffic, or you can pull over to the side of the road.) Create a new habit. If you cannot go to sleep at night, try doing this 16 times. Remember to quite you mind; think of becoming like limp rubber, or of melting into a puddle of blue-green calm as you do the breathing exercises.

1. Serious breaths

2. Belly breaths — or I need to relax a little breathing: Minimum: 3-5 times in rapid succession. To center down before a meal or when your feeling mildly stressed, place your hands on your abdomen and fill your lungs full of air with a deep belly breath — exhale in a succession of short soft puffs — rather like keeping a balloon in the air.

3. Don’t go negative! — Intervention breathing — Minimum: 3 breaths — As Gay Hendricks points out, it is important to catch yourself when you are experiencing negative thoughts or when something negative has happened to trigger a fight or flight response. You must create relaxing intervention breathing as soon as you feel yourself flooded with negativity, self-doubt, anxiety, or fear. Take three big, deep breaths and change your body position and give yourself a big all over shake. Let whatever has happened go. Envision it leaving your area as you shake your shoulders and arms.

Invigorating breaths: Minimum — 3-4 short breaths plus one long. If one set doesn’t work, try three sets. If you feel like you are losing energy, take in 3-4 short but deep in and out breaths. Follow these with a long cosmic breath. This works well with stimulating acupressure points or with a cross-crawl or hemisphere switching exercise.

4. Wake me up, I’m in a slump breathing:

5. Hey, I really, really need to wake up breathing – Minimum –1-5 minutes. Warning – if you feel yourself getting dizzy STOP and rest and breath slowly. This type of breathing needs to be done while you are walking or standing. You will need some room to roam and may wish to warn those near you as to what you are going to do — in the event that they might think that you have lost it. Lung capacity is increased by arm movements. Walk about brandishing your arms or one or more objects of equal weight – a cane, wooden spoon, baton, paper towel tubes, pencils, etc. Create expressive arm movements like you are attacking an imaginary foe or dueling with Basil Rathbone. Or if you wish to be more sedate, simply stand and do horizontal figure eights in the air, first with one hand, then the other, and then with both together.

6. Raise your metabolism breathing – Inhale deeply through your nose pulling your diaphragm up and sucking in your abdomen at the same time. Hold it and count slowly to 3-5. This should create a type of vacuum. Exhale quickly through your mouth. If this makes you feel lightheaded, STOP immediately.

(c) Leslie Owen Wilson 1997, 2005




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The Power of Breathing and Breathing Techniques

By: Dr. Laura De Giorgio


Breathing and Neurology

Breathing is one of the most profound and direct ways we have of changing or tuning our chemical and biological state to affect our neurology. Within breath is contained life-force (energy, ki. chi, prana, etc.). The assimilation and direction of life-force can be further increased through awareness.

Rapport and Bonding

Through breathing we interact with our surroundings. The air you breathe in now was the exhalation of someone else. Matching the breathing of another, breathing in unison with another, is one of the fastest ways to create a rapport. You can change the state of another by passing his or her breathing and then leading by slowly changing the pattern, depending on what you desire to accomplish – e.g. stimulate more excitement or calm down another.

Tantric lovers consciously use techniques of circular breathing to build a strong bond of union. The simplest is that one lover inhales while the other exhales. Partners can circle and increase energy when the active partner inhales through the nose and exhales through the genitals, while the receptive, or other partner inhales through the genitals and exhales through the nose. Making smaller circles, for instance between the sex chakra and the heart chakra, to promote intense and passionate love.

Breathing and Trance States

Deep, relaxed breathing promotes calmness and helps to induce a trance state. When breathing in, breathe deeply into your stomach, hold the breath for a few moments, and exhale very slowly. Repeat the process several times. You will notice an instant sense of increased calmness.

This kind of breathing also helps when you find yourself emotionally overwhelmed. Deep breathing will help you to let go of stress and restore mental and emotional equilibrium, enabling you to handle the situation more effectively.

One breathing technique that promotes overall relaxation is by focusing on different parts of your body and breathing through that part of the body until it feels totally loose and relaxed, beginning with your feet, and continuing with your calves, knees, thighs, buttocks, stomach, back, chest (breast), arms, shoulders, neck and completing the process with your head. Maintaining your awareness on breathing, simply watching it without consciously attempting to change it (it will change of its own accord) promotes an awareness of the present moment.

When you are immersed in reading a book or when you are solving a mathematical problem, your mind is very much absorbed in the object of your focus. If you closely watch your breath on these occasions, you will find that the breath has become very very slow. Mind and Breathing and closely connected.

Breathing and Healing

You can use the breath to send your attention and energy to certain parts of your body. In this way you can increase the awareness of your body, as well as stimulate the healing energy. To accelerate the healing process, all you need to do is imagine that you are breathing through the part of your body that needs healing. Health problems are a result of “congested energy” and breathing helps both to release these blockages and allow the unobstructed flow of energy through the body, as well as to increase the life-force in that part of the body. Breathing and Pain Management

Directing breathing to a painful area of the body relaxes the muscles and helps to eliminate pain. For example, if you feel tightness in your stomach, you may notice instant improvement after just a few focused breaths. In this case, simply imagine that you are breathing through your stomach.

Breathing and Child Delivery

There are four kinds of breathing that immensely help to ease, and control child delivery process. During the first stage of delivery, when contractions are few minutes apart, simply breathing through to stomach with the rise of each contraction, will release the tension, relax the muscles and dissolve all discomfort. As the interval between contractions shortens and they become more intense, a more intense, panting type of breathing helps to dissolve the discomfort.

As the delivery moment is approaching and you begin to feel the pressure and an urge to push, yet still need to wait for the doctor to check that the baby is properly positioned, the breathing that relieves the pressure is taking several breaths rapidly through your teeth, as if you’re making a hissing sound and then very slowly and deeply exhaling. The long exhalation helps to relax and lift off the pressure.

The purpose of the fourth kind of breathing in delivery is to help you speed up the delivery and to prevent the push and pull of the baby. This last kind of breathing takes a little bit of practice. You are to slowly take in the breath, hold it for one minute, while focusing all your strength on pushing with your stomach muscles. Then you need to maintain this push and in order to do so, you exhale very slowly, immediately taking another deep breath and holding it for another minute. You need to be able to maintain the push for 3-5 minutes, all along taking in the breath and holding it for one minute. You are likely to deliver the baby in only three minutes.

Removing Emotional Blocks

Deep intense breathing brings you in touch with deep-seated emotions, the fears, pains and anger, and releases them. A very effective breathing technique that releases deep-seated emotions and released energy blocks that prevent the free flow of energy is conscious-connected breathing. In this type of breathing there is no pause between the inhalation and exhalation, just one continuous flow.

You naturally breath in this way after, what represents for you, an intense physical exertion – e.g. running a long distance. This is just about the only kind of breathing in which you may breathe (inhale and exhale) through your mouth. Even if you breathe only for several minutes in this way – e.g. 20 conscious connected breaths, you’ll release some emotional and energetic blocks. To experience the whole process, which may last even 45 minutes, it is best to contact a “certified rebirther” in your area.

A “rebirther” is simply a guide – a person who has undergone this process and is experienced in guiding you through it. The above process was initiated by Leonard Orr. The name “rebirthing” stuck because many people who went through the process would re-live their “birth” experience. The similar process, initiated by Stan Grof is “holotropic breathwork”.

As you keep on breathing in the above manner, your body will feel energized and you will feel tingles all over your body. As the energy pushes through the energetic blocks in your body, initially you may feel a slight discomfort and attempt to resist the process. Resisting the process actually intensifies discomfort, so the only way through is to keep on breathing. As you surrender to the breathing process, at some point you’ll even feel that it’s not you who are breathing, but that the breath is breathing you, purifying every cell and atom of your body. As energetic and emotional obstacles dissolve, your breathing will gradually return to normal and you’ll feel super-energized.

Accessing Creativity

There are several techniques for accessing creativity through breathing. One of them involves switching the nostril through which you are breathing. Throughout the day you’ll notice that the nostril through which you are breathing changes. For a while you breathe through the right nostril, then the nostril changes, and you breathe through the left nostril. After a while, nostrils change again. As the left side of the body controls the right-brain thinking (creative), and the right side of the body controls the left-brain thinking (logical), to stimulate creativity and right-brain thinking, you simply close down your right nostril (with your thumb) and breathe through the left nostril, thus stimulating the right-brain activity.

Accelerating the Creation Process

Like God breathed life into his creation, magicians and healers breathe raised energy into the desired outcome. Focused energy, like a laser beam, always hits the target and brings about the manifestation, yet to create a change, to shape shift your reality, you need to generate energy. The more energy you have, the more power you have. Individual with more energy easily re-arranges the lower-energy patterns. Or, if you will, in the conflict between the two, the one with more energy (higher vibration, more power) always wins over the one with lower energy (lower vibration, less power). More about this is mentioned elsewhere – throughout my website and through different reports and lessons that come with the self-hypnosis programs. Once the energy is raised (generated) it is directed, through breath and visualization, toward the manifestation of desired goal.

Kundalini Awakening Meditation

Kundalini breathing is the yogic process of consciously creating and sustaining a definite ascending and descending flow of cosmic energy through the cerebro-spinal channel.

While you are breathing in, imagine that together with your breath, you are breathing in the energy (life-force, ki. chi, prana) and imagine that this energy (you can imagine it as a ball of energy) is flowing down your spine. When it gets to the bottom of your spine, to the sacral energy center (chakra), imagine it striking the nerve center and awakening Kundalini. While you are breathing out imagine the energy and awakening Kundalini, rising up all the way from your sacral chakra to the top of your head.

After a while you may notice a sensation of heat rising up from the bottom of your spine. You may also become aware of increased energy manifesting as a tingling sensation, as if an electric current was running through your body.

Alternative Kundalini Awakening Meditation

When you practice the following, concentrate on the sacral energy center (Muladhara chakra) at the base of the spinal column, which is triangular in form and which is the seat of the Kundalini Shakti. Close the right nostril with your fight thumb. Inhale through the left nostril till you count to 3 slowly. Imagine that you are drawing the energy together with air you are inhaling.

Then close the left nostril with your little and ring fingers of the right hand. Then retain the breath for the count of 12. Send the current down the spinal column straight into the triangular lotus, the Muladhara chakra. Imagine that the nerve-current is striking against the lotus and awakening the Kundalini.

Then slowly exhale through the right nostril counting to 6. Repeat the process from the right nostril as stated above, using the same units, and having the same imagination and feeling.

This breathing technique will awaken the Kundalini quickly. Do it 3 times in the morning and 3 times in the evening. Increase the number and time gradually and cautiously according to your strength and capacity.

In this breathing technique, concentration on the sacral energy center is the important thing. Kundalini will be awakened quickly if the degree of concentration is intense and if the breathing technique is practiced regularly.

As you inhale, feel that the Kundalini lying dormant in the sacral chakra is awakened and is going up from chakra to chakra. The more vivid the visualization of chakra after chakra, the more rapid will be your progress. Imagine that your whole being is pervaded by light, love, wisdom and power.

Slowly exhale now. And, as you exhale feel that the Kundalini Shakti is gradually descending from the top of your head (Sahasrara chakra), and from chakra to chakra, to the end of your spine (Muladhara chakra). Now repeat the process.

Complete Yoga Breath

Sitting up straight or standing, or lying flat when possible, begin by expanding the abdomen and breathing into the lower lungs. Continue filling the middle lungs, expanding your lower ribs, then the middle ribs, then lifting the upper ribs, expand the upper chest. Finally, to get that air into the lungs highest areas, contract the abdomen just a bit. Your shoulders will lift a bit.

Hold your breath for just five seconds, no more. Finally, exhale through your nose, slowly, again contracting your stomach muscles.

Now, relax completely. Breathe normally for a breath or two, and repeat the complete breath. You can start with a few breaths, and gradually increase the number of breaths – as long as it feels comfortable.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Sit up straight. Close the right nostril with the right thumb. Draw in the air very, very slowly through the left nostril. Then close the left nostril also with little and ring fingers of the right hand. Retain the air as long as you can comfortably do. Then exhale very, very slowly through the nostril after removing the thumb.

Then draw air through the right nostril. Retain the air as before and exhale it very, very slowly through the left nostril. Repeat the above process 20 times in the morning and 20 times in the evening. Gradually increase the number. While breathing the above manner, imagine that with every exhalation, all tensions and negative attitudes (emotions) are leaving you and with every exhalation imagine that love, joy and peace are entering into being together with the air you are inhaling.

This kind of breathing cleanses the mind and the body, improves focus and concentration, and accelerates healing.

(c) 2001 – 2005, Dr. Laura De Giorgio,




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Stress Management

By: By Vicki R. Pierson, Certified Personal Trainer


There’s not an easy solution to deal with the problem of stress. Stress is encountered in almost every aspect of our lives. Like successful weight management, in order to achieve stress reduction we must weave the solution into the fabric of our lives.

Through regular practice of stress reduction techniques, symptoms of stress decrease and become more manageable. For the most part, stress is largely under your control. You may not be able to control the situation, however, your reaction in any given situation is entirely under your control.

One way to monitor and understand stress in your life is to record your feelings in a diary. Once you gain better awareness of the things that cause you stress, you can then build an action plan to positively manage it by creating some positive goals to help reduce the amount of stress in your daily life.

Relaxation: Stress Management Techniques For the next few moments… stop doing… just sit. Become aware of your breath. Focus on the subtle ebb and flow as you breath in, and breath out, and breath in, and breath out, and breath in, and breath out… You have just experienced a relaxing, albeit brief, time-out. When practiced throughout the day, this breathing exercise can reduce your stress level significantly!

There are a variety of stress management techniques that will help decrease the amount of anxiety you experience in your life. My list is not all-inclusive, but it’s a good start. I suggest you experiment with a wide variety of techniques to find the ones that work best for you. Once you find some effective techniques, practice them regularly to weave them into the fabric of your daily life.

Deep breathing. The exercise like the one explained above can give you some immediate relief from a stressful situation. Focus on slowing your heart rate down by breathing in deeply and slowly, then exhaling slowly and completely. Repeat the inhale/exhale cycle at least five times and you should notice a decrease in your heart rate and anxiety level.

Quiet time. Taking some quite time for yourself can often reduce stress. Find a place at home and at work where you can get away from everyone and take a few minutes for yourself. You can practice any relaxation technique or simply spend the time thinking through a problematic situation. Use the time to do whatever will help you to relax.

Relaxation media. There is a variety of relaxation media on the market in the form of cassettes, CD’s, videos and even computer software. These products can provide you with multiple forms of stress management techniques, step-by-step instruction, soothing music and more.

Visualization. Mental visualization is a powerful technique. While it can be implemented in almost any situation, visualization has gained notoriety in its successful practice by competitive athletes. The basic technique of visualization is to put yourself in a relaxed position, breathe deeply and rhythmically and close your eyes. Then, in detail, imagine in your mind’s eye a peaceful place or any surroundings that are pleasant and claming to you. While imagining this place, focus on breathing deeply and releasing tension from your entire body. Visualization can also be used to play out a situation from the beginning to its positive end. This is one of the variations used by competitive athletes. In your mind’s eye, you imagine in detail, the chain of events and the actions you will perform to attain a positive end result. During this process, focus on breathing deeply, releasing tension from your body and approaching every action in a calm and confident manner.

Yoga. The word yoga comes from Sanskrit language meaning union and is believed to be at least 6000 years old, originating in India. Yoga combines dynamic physical exercise with a lifestyle philosophy. There are many forms of yoga but the goal is always the same, perfect self-knowledge. More specifically, the ultimate goal of yoga philosophy is complete detachment from reality, as we understand it, and complete self-knowledge. By separating our “self” from the environment we are able to come to terms with our individual personality and start putting our mind and emotions in order. If you would like to experiment with yoga as a stress management tool, check out some books at the library to learn more or rent a beginner’s yoga videotape. There are alot of good exercise videos available on yoga that would be worth experimenting with.

Meditation. Meditation is meant to bring about awareness, nothing else. It’s a time to connect to your inner “source” and let go of the issues, responsibilities and situations that bind your life. The benefits of mediation are uniquely individual, but both physiological and psychological balancing is common. To get you started, here is an explanation of how to practice classic and simple meditation: The Mantra: A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated to yourself out loud or silently. The purpose of the mantra is to discard your normal thoughts and focus your awareness inward. You can select anything as your mantra from a single word to religious scripture, anything that is meditative for you. For this exercise, we will use a natural mantra “hamsa,” being the natural sound one makes when breathing… “ham” (h-ah-m) on inhalation and “sa” (s-ah) on exhalation.

The Hamsa Meditation:

  • Sit comfortably, back straight, shoulders relaxed with your arms by your side or resting in your lap. Select a quiet place if possible, but it’s not required.
  • Close your eyes and breath naturally. Sit for a minute before you begin thinking the mantra to allow your heart and breathing to slow.
  • Gently focus your attention on your breath and begin thinking the mantra, slowly and rhythmically, matching the mantra with your breath… (h-ah-m) on inhalation and (s-ah) on exhalation. Allow yourself to become absorbed in it.
  • Let your thoughts and feelings come and go without concern. Don’t try to control them in any way, simply note them. When you realize you’re not repeating the mantra, re-focus your attention on your breath and begin thinking the mantra again. Don’t try to force yourself to think the mantra to the exclusion of all other thoughts.
  • Meditate for at least 10 minutes, preferably 20 minutes. When done, take about a minute to slowly return to normal awareness. (It’s okay to glance at a clock to time your meditation, however, I suggest you don’t use any kind of alarm timer.)  {silent alarm, such as BreathMinder is good.}
  • Gently open your eyes and slowly move to your feet. Be careful not to get up too quickly after meditating, you may experience some dizziness after a deep state of rest.

You may or may not experience a deep state of relaxation and rest your first time meditating. As with many relaxation techniques, meditation takes practice to reap all the benefits. Don’t get discouraged, just stay with it.

Exercise. Exercise is an excellent means of releasing tension from your body and inducing a relaxation response. You’ve been practicing this technique for many weeks now. Among the other benefits physical activity brings, have you experienced a reduction in stress?

Stretching. Stress makes your muscles tense up and can cause headaches, a stiff neck, sore shoulders and a knotted back. Full body stretching will help your muscles relax and help you to breath deeper. Always remember to hold stretches for a minimum of ten seconds and concentrate on elongating the muscle slowly and rhythmically. Don’t bounce! When you don’t have the time to stretch your entire body, try these simple upper body-stretching exercises to release tension. They can be easily done in a chair anywhere; at home, at the office, traveling in a car, bus or on plane:

  • Neck. Sit comfortably with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Tilt your head to the left as though you are trying to touch your left ear to your shoulder. Feel the stretch on the right side of your neck. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Be sure not to let your shoulders raise up, keep them down and relaxed. Now, slowly move your head to the right, repeating the exercise to stretch the left side of your neck. Last, slowly roll your head down, bowing your head and try to touch your chin to your chest. Feel the stretch down the back of your neck. Hold this position for 10 seconds. A word of caution: Do not tilt your head back in an attempt to stretch the front of your neck, this position hyperextends the neck and can cause physical harm.
  • Shoulders. Sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders relaxed and your arms at your sides. Slowly begin rolling your shoulders in a circular, backward motion. Keep the movement isolated to your shoulders and keep your arms relaxed and limp. Roll your shoulders back ten times then begin rolling them forward ten times. Make the largest circles you can and feel the full range of motion as your shoulders move. Next, shrug your shoulders up as though you were trying to touch them to your ears, then bring them down as though your were pressing them to the ground. Repeat this up and down shrugging ten times.
  • Back. Sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders relaxed and your arms at your sides. Slowly rotate your torso and head as though you were looking over your left shoulder. Rotate as far around as you comfortably can and hold the stretch for ten seconds. Slowly bring your torso and head back to center position and rotate to your right side. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Next, sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders relaxed and cross your arms in front of your chest. Now bring your crossed arms up to a 90-degree angle, perpendicular to your body and hold them there. Slowly begin rounding your back, making your chest concave. Stretch your arms away from your back as though a sting was tied around your arms pulling them forward and another string attached to your back was pulling it backwards. Hold the stretch for ten seconds. Lastly, sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders relaxed and your arms at your side. Slowly begin leaning forward until you are resting your chest in your lap. Allow your arms to relax and gently fall to the floor and bow your head over your knees. Feel the stretch across your back as you let your body go limp. Hold this stretch for ten seconds.

Give yourself reminders. Part of the problem with some of these techniques is simply remembering to practice them. At home, at work, or in the car you may want to put up little reminders to practice a technique. For example, purchase some labels that are small round colored dots. Put them in various places in your home, car or work area. Whenever you see one of these colored dots, practice deep breathing. Or, remind yourself with sticky notes, an on-screen computer message that pops up at various intervals during the day, schedule it in your daily appointment book, etc. Just be inventive in finding things that will remind you to take some time to de-stress.

(Note: this is why I developed my BreathMinder – it has a silent alarm so I don’t attract unwanted attention, it is foolproof, tiny, and simple to use – Janice.)

Is this worth the stress? Often we become involved in situations that simply aren’t worth the stress that they cause. Ask yourself this question occasionally, and if the answer is “No,” move on. Be aware of situations you can’t control. Have the wisdom to realize when you’re in a situation you can’t control, then accept it. Don’t waste your time trying to change it. Instead, focus on reacting to the situation in a stress-free manner. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Often stress occurs out of frustration and lack of communication. Learn positive ways to express your feelings and desires to people who may be causing you stress. If talking to a person isn’t the answer, then put your feelings on paper in a journal. Many times the simple act of ‘getting it off your chest’ in an appropriate manner will reduce your stress level.

Are chemicals the culprit? Surprisingly, much of the stress you experience daily could be due to what you are putting into your body in the form of chemicals. Be sure to eat a balanced, healthy diet to assure you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to operate and maximum efficiency.

  • Caffeine is a stimulant. If you drink more than a couple cups a day, try decaf. You may find that switching to a good decaffeinated coffee will reduce a significant amount of stress.
  • Alcohol in small doses may help you relax. However, in larger amounts it may increase stress as it disrupts sleep and causes hangovers. Large amounts over an extended period will start damaging your body.
  • Nicotine in the very short-term may appear to relax your body, but it doesn’t. Nicotine’s toxic effect raises the heart rate and stresses the body and lungs. Consider quitting! There are a number of stop-smoking aids available on the market today.
  • Sugar can raise energy in the short term. Unfortunately, your body has to counteract the high dose of sugar in your blood by raising your insulin level. Once your blood-sugar level is normalized, the insulin will continue acting and you will experience a decrease in energy lower than before you ate the sugar. Try not to overtax your body by feeding it high dosages of sugar.

(c) 1995-2005 The Fitness Jumpsite




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Remembering To Exhale

By: Vicki Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC


Don’t you just hate it when you’re upset, and someone tells you to take a deep breath and exhale? I know for myself that used to be the last thing I wanted to hear. I remember thinking yeah right, what is breathing going to do! When we are sick, hurting, or lonely all we want is to be soothed. Being an adult means taking care of our selves. Remembering to breathe is just one of the many things we can do when we’re feeling bad. One thing I’ve learned about breathing is that if I don’t exhale, I begin to lose control of my life. By just remembering to breathe (in and OUT) I can do just about anything!

When we are surprised, shocked, panicked, stressed, or have flashbacks — we automatically inhale fast and deep, but usually forget to exhale. When we don’t let our breath go out, our body toxins and the attached feelings to the stressor get stuck inside. After several years of keeping our breath inside, our feelings also build up and we begin to feel stuck. When this happens we begin to feel like we can’t do anything.

Why is it so important to breathe? When you stop breathing, your brain stops receiving oxygen. When that happens, you can’t think clearly, and you can’t solve problems. I know for myself when I can’t solve problems I start to feel stuck, helpless, unable to move beyond the point that I’m at.

If you stop and think about it there are several types of breathing. One important type is the kind women learn in Lamaze classes. They teach mothers-to-be to reduce labor pains, with two short breaths out, and one long, deep breath in. Remember the key word to relieving pain — breathing OUT!!! This is true for both physical and emotional pain.

When we go to the doctor and need to have an X-ray taken, the technician always reminds us to take a deep breath, right before they take the picture. But how many of us forget to let go of the air and exhale? What kinds of feelings do you have when you are breathing in before an X-ray? I know for myself when I’m going to have an X-ray taken, it’s because I’ve fallen, or am sick and are tying to find out if something more serious is wrong. If I don’t remember to exhale, I am once again breathing in anxiety, panic, stress, etc. When most of us are on a roller coaster and about to go down hill, we take a deep breath in. Do we remember to exhale? If the answer is NO, once again we keep in the stress.

The same thing happens when we are about to take a test at school, for a job, confronting someone about something that bothers us. We all take a deep breath in, but how many of us remember to let it go. I wonder how many deep breaths are stuck inside each and everyone of us? How many of those feelings attached to those breaths are also stuck inside us? I also wonder how many of us develop stressed related illnesses because we forget to let go of our breath? Breathing (in and OUT) can help us think more clearly, elevate stress and anxiety.

Paying attention to our breath can also help bring us back to the Here and Now, when we are having flashbacks, or when we are frightened by a memory and/or thought. I think the two most important things about breathing is we all know how to do it, and IT’S FREE! You don’t have to go to the doctor to get a prescription to breathe. It’s innate, we are born already knowing how and when to breathe.

I think another important thing to remember is that I’ve never heard of anyone overdosing from taking slow, long, deep breaths and then exhaling slowly. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any one dying from it either. So the next time someone reminds you to breathe, remember they are trying to help you learn to live!

Vicki Polin is the executive director of the Awareness Center – The international organization dedicated to addressing childhood sexual abuse in the Jewish Community. For more information about The Awareness Center, visit their web page at:

(c) (1997) Vicki Polin, MA, ATR, LCPC


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Breaking the Chain: PTSD, Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

By Mark Wollacott,

Last week, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) outlined its plans for a 21st century military system. And so they should because we now have an eye popping 23,816,000 veterans alongside current personnel and all of their families. Few families are left untouched by our military in one way or the other.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, two in ten veterans have turned to substance abuse of some kind or another. One in three of these veterans suffer from PTSD and the department estimates that 31% of all veterans are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This means 7-8 million veterans require treatment. According to veteran mental health specialist Monica Mathieu back in 2008, this care is not integrated properly.

Dov Zakheim, writing in Foreign Policy Magazine, outlined the bipartisan agreement on the Capitol, which given the divided state of government at the moment was quite a surprise, which covers current and former members of the military. Four decades on from the creation of the All Volunteer Force, the modern military now encompasses families as a fixed part of the landscape, but also takes into account that women make up a far larger proportion than any time in our history.

The benefits offered, including great government contributions to retired personnel, are welcome, but with such a large number of veterans with problems, something more integrated is required that goes beyond personal finances. With large numbers of veterans turning to substance abuse – 6 in 10 PTSD sufferers are smokers, many have alcohol and drug addiction problems, a total care package is required.

It is important to look at PTSD and substance abuse because people with a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) are more likely to commit domestic violence. For example, 25-50% of men who committed battery against a spouse had a substance abuse problem. It goes beyond the veterans too because it forms part of a vicious circle. Various studies seem to suggest that 31% to 84% of women who suffer domestic violence show symptoms of PTSD. Many of them then turn to substance abuse themselves.

Back in 2008, Matthieu said that “the increasing number of veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) raises the risk of domestic violence.” In talks with Peter Hovmand, a domestic violence expert at Washington University in St. Louis, Matthieu outlined a solution: “Veterans need to have multiple providers coordinating the care that is available to them, with each provider working on one treatment goal. Coordinated community response efforts such as this bring together law enforcement, the courts, social service agencies, community activists and advocates for women to address the problem of domestic violence. These efforts increase victim safety and offender accountability by encouraging interorganizational exchanges and communication.”

Given the agreed updates to retired veterans in the modern world and the taking into account their spouses and families, it’s time to make sure there is a truly inter-organizational and integrated approach to veteran mental health to help prevent them from turning to substance abuse and domestic violence.



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The Law of Least Effort

By: Dennis Lewis


So often I hear from people who have been attempting to breathe in a Healthier way that their efforts don’t seem to bring them many results. When I talk in depth with them about how they work with their breath, I not only discover that they often have little idea what is involved in healthy breathing (some people wrongly believe that healthy breathing is equivalent to “deep breathing”), but, just as important, I discover that many people use too much physical effort in their attempts at better breathing, however they define it.

For anyone who is interested in allowing “the breath of life” to animate them more fully, it is important to realize that excessive effort actually impedes the diaphragm and secondary breathing muscles and thus undermines the breath. It is therefore imperative that anyone who is attempting to work with their breath use the minimum amount of physical effort necessary when doing any kind of breathing exercises and learn how to sense what happens not only in their breathing muscles but also in their entire body when they undertake these exercises. The key, here, is self-sensing and awareness, which I go into in depth in my book The Tao of Natural Breathing, as well as in my forthcoming book from Shambhala (May 2004) Free Your Breath, Free Your Life.

In my book The Tao of Natural Breathing, I discussed the importance of “The Law of Least Effort.” Here is a quotation from my book that explains the “psychophysical law” that underlies this discussion:

“As we begin to learn how to sense ourselves–especially in relation to our breathing–we will quickly see that the sensation of intense effort in the many areas of our lives often signals a ‘wrong’ relationship not only to what we are doing, but, perhaps more importantly, to ourselves. It is not wrong in any moral or ethical way, but simply because it is counterproductive–it goes against the laws of harmonious functioning. Wrong effort constricts our breathing, cuts us off from our own energy, and produces actions that we did not intend. … It is clear to me today that as we learn to sense ourselves more completely and impartially, we free up the inner intelligence of our minds and bodies to learn new, better ways to accomplish our aims and promote health in our lives.

The Law of Least Effort To understand how this is possible, it is important to understand that the brain learns and performs best when we use the least possible effort to accomplish a given task. For thousands of years, Taoist masters have emphasized this principle through their advice to use no more than 60 or 70 percent of our capacity in carrying out physical or spiritual practices.

The Weber-Fechner psychophysical law demonstrates one reason why this is so important, since it states that the ‘senses are organized to take notice of differences between two stimuli rather than the absolute intensity of a stimulus.’ When we try hard ‘to do’ something, when we use unnecessary force to accomplish our goals, our whole body generally ends up becoming tense. This tension makes it more difficult for our brain and nervous systems to discern the subtle sensory impressions necessary to help carry out our intention in the most creative way possible. The ‘law of least effort’ is not, however, a license for laziness.

Our health, well-being, and inner growth all require a dynamic balance of tension and relaxation, of yang and yin. They depend on the ability to know through our inner and outer senses what is necessary and what is not in our efforts and actions. To sense ourselves clearly, we need to be able to experience a part or dimension of ourselves that is quiet, comfortable, and free of unnecessary tension. It is the sensation of subtle impressions coming from this more relaxed place in ourselves that allows us to observe and release the unnecessary tension in other parts of ourselves. In short, effective action requires relaxation.

But this relaxation should not be a ‘collapse’ of either our body or our awareness. It is more like the ‘vigilant relaxation’ of a cat. Vigilant relaxation makes it possible to manifest the appropriate degree of contraction–the life-giving tension called ‘tonus’–in any given situation.”

I hope this discussion of “The Law of Least Effort” and the Weber-Fechner psychophysical law (the law can be found on page 48 of Peter Nathan’s book The Nervous System, Oxford University Press) helps you understand (at least to some extent) why, if you want real, lasting results, it is so important to work as gently as possible with your breathing–especially when you are working on your own. When you put yourself in the hands of a body worker or breathing therapist, of course, he or she may work on you in necessary ways that are not always gentle. But when you do breathing exercises on your own, it is your inner sensitivity and awareness, combined with right intention and knowledge, that will eventually bring about any necessary changes. Self-inflicted force and manipulation, including tension-filled efforts to breathe deeply, will not only seldom help, but in many cases will only cause further problems.

This article is copyright 1998-2005 by Dennis Lewis, and used here with his written permission. Dennis Lewis, a long�time student of Taoism, Advaita, and the Gurdjieff Work, teaches authentic breathing, qigong, and self-inquiry. He is the author of the The Tao of Natural Breathing; Free Your Breath, Free Your Life; and the three-CD audio program Natural Breathing. You can read other articles, or reach him, through his websites: or





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Page last updated August 27, 2017