By now probably everyone knows that too much stress can damage your health. It’s usually a factor in every chronic disease like cardiovascualr disease, diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition stress can contribute to:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Immune system suppression and lowered resistance to infection
  • Digestive disturbance and ulcers
  • Increased vulnerability to injury and slowed injury healing
  • Hormone problems, especially involving estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormone and DHEA
  • Accelerated aging
  • Fatigue
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Dehydration
  • Low back pain
  • Joint instability and difficulty holding adjustments
  • Impaired mental focus, ADD, ADHD
  • And much more

There are many ways you can help reduce your stress loads involving diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes but that will be the subject of another email. What I really want to cover this time is how you can use breathing to lower your stress levels.

The breath is very interesting. It’s a semi-conscious activity which means that you don’t have to think about it to make it happen…..fortunately! On the other hand, you *can* control it consciously if you want to. Because of this, the breath can act as a sort of back door into the subconscious.

You may know that I taught yoga for many years before becoming a chiropractor. I taught breathing techniques on a regular basis to help my patients relax and lower their stress levels. Recently, I’ve been teaching my patients to help lower their stress and reset their adrenals with these ancient yoga breathing exercises. I want to share two of these with you in this letter.

The first is very simple. Simply find a quiet place where you’ll be undisturbed for at least five minutes. Now close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Breathe down deep into your belly and let your chest gently expand. Don’t force the breath. Breathe slowly and deeply but don’t try to fill every little bit of your lungs. Keep it relaxed and pleasant. Focus on the breath, watching it come and go. If your attention wanders, that’s OK, just bring it gently back to the breath. Practice anywhere from three to ten minutes three to seven days per week.

The second technique is more complex but even better for lowering stress and taking a load off your adrenals. It’s called the “alternate nostril breath” or Nadhi Suddhi in the original Sanskrit. Use the same type of slow, deep breathing as above add nostril alteration.

Note: you need to be able to breathe through both nostrils to do this. If you have sinus problems you might want to stick with the first technique.

  1. Fold your index and middle fingers into the palm of your right hand, leaving your thumb, ring finger and little finger out.
  2. Take a slow, deep breath through both nostrils
  3. Block off your right nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril
  4. Keep your right nostril blocked and inhale through your left nostril
  5. Block off your left nostril with your ring and little fingers and exhale through your right nostril
  6. keep your left nostril blocked and inhale through your right nostril
  7. Block off your right nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril
  8. Continue as above for 1 – 10 minutes. Be sure to finish by exhaling through your right nostril
  9. To summarize, the air you breath in through one nostril, you breathe out through the other nostril. Out, in, switch, out, in, switch.
  10. For lefties, feel free to use your left hand
  11. If it’s more comfortable, you can leave your index and middle finger out, just don’t use them to block off your nostrils.

You’ll get best result with daily practice but even three or four times/week will make a big difference. Some people find that it works better to practice several times/day for just a minute or two. This breaks their daily stress cycle and they find it easier to fit in several, shorter periods rather than one longer one.

Use these techniques regularly to improve your life and breathe your stress away!

Dr. Hogg