Breathing to Heal

I have to be honest. My doctor told me for years to do breathing exercises before I actually started to take them seriously. I just thought it seemed like it was too simple of a fix for my very complicated health issues.

Part of me, took it as an insult, like he was saying, “Just calm down and breathe, and you’ll be fine.”

Along my healing journey I started to come across research studies confirming the power of intentional breathing and it’s direct effect on the brain and body’s ability to heal.

And even then, I didn’t take it seriously enough to do them regularly.

Excuse the Brain injury pun, but I can be a bit hard headed sometimes.

When I became pregnant last year, however, I had extra motivation. I read about how the muscles and ligaments that open the cervix during the birthing process are controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system (aka the rest and digest response.) Likewise, the muscles and ligaments that close the cervix to stall labor are directly tied to the body’s sympathetic nervous system (aka the fight or flight response).

I knew I was coming in with a disadvantage because of my history of multiple TBI’s causing a tendency to be in a fight or flight state. So I knew that I really needed to train my body to get into a parasympathetic state if I wanted to have a successful natural birth.

Me hooked up to all the things monitoring the healing potential in my body.

It wasn’t until I did a mental performance session where I was hooked up to a bunch of machines that were reading my heart rate variability, skin conductance, muscle tension, etc. that I was able to see the power that simple breathing exercises had on my body’s ability to go into a parasympathetic mode where it could rest, digest, birth, handle stress, and ultimately heal. I literally saw a night and day difference in my body’s response right there on a graph after only minutes of focused breathing.

I still could be even better at this habit than I am, but I can’t shake the evidence I saw that day on the computer screen. I have since worked breathing into my daily habits, even if I just have a few minutes here and there, while I am sitting in a waiting room, in the car, or when feeding my baby. I have noticed not only the acute effects on how I feel in the moment, but also the huge difference they make in my overall health as well when done consistently.

Two Apps that I recommend to help you get started are: Breathe2Relax and Paced Breathing

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