about my breath practice
cyclic hyperventilation, plus a photo essay for paid subscribers
I never realized how much I was holding my breath until I started doing it on purpose.
We grip oxygen in a greedy way. And it’s part of our western American culture. Worrying about not getting enough. And it has affected our chemistry. We have become hypersensitive to carbon dioxide and it’s not good for us. As with most things, we need a balance. Our system works with carbon dioxide and oxygen both. Carbon dioxide helps regulate our system. While too much oxygen makes us logy. When our oxygen and carbon dioxide is out of balance, we have headaches and sore throats and panic is always close to the surface. Working with carbon dioxide provides a balance to that too muchness, it helps us get rid of the garbage and is a metabolic waste in and of itself.
Breathing out is essential.
Below I link a podcast practice of cyclic hyperventilation breathing that I recorded a while back. The practice concentrates on the exhale, expelling all your carbon dioxide with strong out breaths through the mouth.
This isn’t the the kind of breath practice that you expect.
In fact when Josh overhears me doing it, he says, “That sounds kind of stressful.”
But that is the point.
Our modern living situations don’t do much to stress the system and as a result, our immune systems don’t have enough to do. They get out of balance and mistakenly attack healthy tissues and cells.
Think of your immune system as your bored, smart border collie and use this breath to give it something to work on.
All it wants to do is work for you.
The intention of this breath is to be challenging. We are playing with that panic feeling you get when you hold your breath for a long period of time and over-breathing on purpose in order to train our chemoreceptors to withstand varying levels of carbon dioxide. These receptors sit at the base of our brainstem and respond to how much carbon dioxide we have in our systems. When they sense it is too high, the set off alarms which triggers that panic feeling. This is an action of our reptilian brain. The regulatory system that kept earlier forms of life away from too much carbon dioxide, so instinctively they would get the oxygen they needed. That feeling of suffocation was there to help our animal forebears stay alive, but today, with our access to intention and doing things on purpose, we can train those instincts to be of service to us, rather than getting in our way.
Train your chemoreceptors to be more flexible with breathing practices that increase your carbon dioxide level, rather than over-breathing oxygen and letting your body become hypersensitized to carbon dioxide. This is a simple way to play with your own chemistry and find more resilience in the face of panic and anxiety.
I learned this practice from a book called Breath by James Nestor. This book discusses in detail the role carbon dioxide plays in the biology of anxiety and panic, particularly in the chapter called, “Hold It,” where the above information is relayed better with more detail. The research and discoveries that this book shares would change the way we do most everything here in the us from mental health therapy to sleeping. And, although the book is incredibly readable, it is also incredibly dense. And by that I mean, so full of information that it is hard to absorb it all.
I have been practicing this breathing technique since last June when my father died. I have noticed much more strength and stamina in all the things that have been going on for me. It has kept my knee pain down and I can hold my breath much longer than I used to. That panic feeling is under control. And somedays the breathing comes with a feeling of euphoria and a sense that I can tackle anything.
Find the practice below, and I’d love to hear what you think and find after doing it.
photo essay of our trip
Josh’s sister lives in Israel and we have made 5 trips there over the last 20 years. This last time was for a niece's wedding. Because our trip coincided with passover we didn’t try to go to Jerusalem. Normally I would say a trip to Israel without a trip to Jerusalem is ridiculous, but in this case it totally made sense. On the Jewish holidays, which include Shabbos each week, public transport is pretty non-existent all over, but in Jerusalem it would be even more so. And many food places shut down entirely for the holiday, because it is much easier than becoming kosher for passover. But Tel Aviv is a different story. My photo essay which follows will be behind a paywall. I’d love if you become a paying subscriber to see it. If for some reason that is not an option for you and you feel compelled to have a look, let me know and I will gift you a month or something. Much love, Tina
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