We all have a life-time of experience in this most basic of functions – breathing. We do it automatically and without thinking – our bodies do it for us. Breathing is one of the fundamentals of being alive. That is the WHAT of it.
But what may never have occurred to us is the HOW, and the HOW is crucial.
Just recently there has been some publicity, two fabulous books and a lot of interest in how we breathe. It seems that not many of us breathe in a helpful way.
I have done some yogic breathing in my time, some meditative practices that focus on the breath and once learned an amazing morning practice that includes a lot of breathing and snorting out through the nose. I regard myself as a good breather.
But having read these two books and followed some of the techniques outlined along with some great online videos I have discovered that I have a way to go to reach the place of not panicking when I hold my breath (holding it in or holding it out!).
These are the three things that have stood out as important if we are to have optimal health, good posture and great breathing.
ONE: BREATHE THROUGH THE NOSE
This is important. The nose not only acts as a filter for airborne impurities, nasal breathing also stimulates the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is the body’s own natural defence against viruses (think of Covid!!). Nasal breathing in the day AND at night defends us from snoring, sleep apnoea and inflammation. Inflammation is seen as one of the main causes of illness and disease and disruptive conditions and any defence will be a good thing.
If you add humming to nasal breathing it is even better – 5 minutes a day!
TWO: DEEPER BREATHING
Deep breathing includes not just a deep breath in to oxygenate the body, it also includes a deep breath out. It exercises the diaphragm while movement of the diaphragm, in its central position in the body, also exercises the internal organs, the backbone and the muscles of the torso.
A good breath in will expand the chest, then the abdomen while a good deep breath out empties the abdomen of air, followed by the chest. Try it – it feels good – and doing this several times a day will help your overall wellbeing.
THREE: SLOW THE RATE OF BREATHING
When we add slowing the rate of our breathing to nose breathing and deeper breathing we increase the rate of oxygen absorption in the body. The ideal is apparently 6 breaths per minute (5.5 seconds inhale and 5.5 seconds exhale to be precise). But the good news is that starting at 12 breaths per minute can help with reducing anxiety and depression. Do this for several breaths, whenever you think of it during the day.
The benefits of better breathing are huge, more than I have outlined above.
Two brilliant books:
James Nestor: ‘Breath’ Penguin 2021
Patrick Mckeown: The Breathing Cure’ OxyAT 2021
And look up breathing on the internet – there are fabulous videos and programmes. And breathing is free and available to us all!!
It has been a long time since I saw clients in person – as well as friends and loved ones too!!
We have all been locked down and unable to move among others freely – it has been hard.
Now I am seeing clients face to face, person to person. It is wonderful and has helped me to understand why it matters so much.
Now, working online has been good – and still is. Thank heavens for the wonders of the internet! Clients have learned to hold their own acupressure points and rub others. As I do this with them I get a strong sense of what is releasing and changing. Distance healing does really work (as many studies show).
Then it came to working directly on the body again – what a joy it is to have this way of connecting and creating rapport with my clients. Once the body is involved we communicate not just with words, but with an embodied sense of helping the person to find the problem and the ways of releasing it. As I sense the aches and pains, lightness and heaviness as well as tight spots and free spots and the change that comes as we release any old tensions I can celebrate with my client.
It reminds me of a fascinating discovery – about the hormone oxytocin. It is one of the hormones that allows us to relax, trust and build relationships. Oxytocin is released when we hug. The area between the shoulder blades seems to be particularly receptive to hugs and the release of oxytocin. Try this with your nearest and dearest and see what happens. But I do experience that all manner of giving and loving touch does the same. What a relief that we are now out of lockdown and able to give and receive hugs again.
As we touch our clients we are giving to them, they take in what they need from the touch. Tension releases and relaxation is profound. We are meeting them body and soul. Magic indeed!
I have been busy planting – the garden has been asking for new plants and new growth. I love growing vegetables and they are the ones that take up planting time in this late spring season. The onward march of courgettes, cabbages and broccoli, beans and peas and my favourite – lettuce – is taking place, covering the ground and reaching up to the sunshine.
Some of the seeds have sprung quickly into life, others have really taken their time. Though now – it is late June after all – they are all doing something. It is the time when good, thrusting growth occurs. The flowers blossom and bring an infinite array of colour to our lives.
Perhaps this is our time to blossom as well.
These are not the only seeds that matter – just the most visible. I was thinking about the seeds that we plant when we talk to our family and friends – a stray word or story can make a difference. The same when we are with our clients. Words can take hold – the seeds dropped as we talk, clicking into place as our client ‘gets it’. As we follow the clues and discover the background and story behind a client’s symptoms and problems our client may well show how relevant it is with a shift of expression or a sigh. Their posture may change, their eyes may suddenly light up, and then we know that what has just happened is an embodiment of change – they have taken it in – and their body responds.
People only come to see us if they wish to make some change in their health, their bodily condition or their life. Helping clients to embody change is part of our task as therapists.
It can seem like a slow process – helping just one person at a time to bring about the changes they are seeking. Sometimes the seeds are slow to germinate and bring about the desired change and growth, though there really is no hurry!
Lets’ go back to the seeds: when they are planted, they eventually take hold and then grow and blossom eventually creating fruit. What a magical process!
More seeds are produced and scattered – and to take the analogy into our work – each and every client who has embodied change will take their new self into their family and community. They will be scattering the seeds of change, offering something new, with some potential for more change occurring – a marvellous kind of ripple effect.
This is a good chance to thank two wise teachers who taught me spiritual healing – years ago at the beginning of my career as a healer and kinesiologist. They talked about this ripple effect as an important part of healing work. As I work in my garden, I remember their wisdom – about seeds that grow and blossom – creating more seeds with the help of the pollinators. From these humble beginnings more life is created. As healers we are part of this rich cycle of change, growth and life, and we can all be pollinators!
It has been for almost a year now that we have seen and felt our lives being frozen by lockdown. This has increasingly felt like a time of ice. Finally the weather is warming, and the winds are less chilling. Spring is definitely on its way.
When we are working with Creative Kinesiology we have a set of clues that can help us to get to the deeper story that a person brings to us. And within the clues is one set entitled ICE – describing ‘the frozen conditions of body, mind, emotions and spirit that are ready for thawing’.
When we come out of lockdown the need for a thawing may be great. I know it will be for me – perhaps particularly when it comes to spending real-life time with my friends and loved ones. How do I approach this after spending so much time with just the cats for company – they are good company but the conversation is limited.
I have enjoyed the quiet time for reflection and discovery but will be pleased when so much space in my life actually ends.
Recently, to entertain myself, I read an interesting book on the immune system by a Professor of Immunology. He outlines the numerous scientific findings that have built up over the years to give the understanding of ‘The Beautiful Cure’ as he calls it. This is brilliant work by dedicated scientists. I know much more about the immune system than I did before. And a lot more about vaccines.
While I was reading, my sense of something missing in the book built up and the question I would ask Professor Daniel Davis if I met him would be ‘Why does you not include the emotional / feeling part of the system in your consideration of immunity.’
It is fairly well documented that stress is a causative factor in many physical problems we encounter. Stress can be seen as part of the emotional response to difficulty in life.
We have good scientific evidence that the emotions affect the molecular structure of our cells – Candace Pert wrote about this in her book ‘Molecules of Emotion’ back in the 1990s.
In our Creative Kinesiology world, we know that the Thymus Gland is important. A well-functioning thymus gland not only produces many of the T-cells that make up our immune responses it also holds the impetus to growth. Physical growth in babies and children comes from the action of the thymus. As we become older the thymus shrinks in size – but that does not mean it is any less important.
The thymus gland is supplied by the vagus nerve – the nerve that helps us to deal with the stressors of life. And if we have a love of life then the thymus gland and the immunity it supports will be healthy and well. Now this is an emotional aspect of life – love and love of life are both vital emotions helping us to enjoy what we have and to seek more joy.
I am getting around to the subject of ice and thawing – if in a rather roundabout way. Love of life means that we have a passion for life, we have fire and warmth, we are looking forward to what life can bring. And this is the thaw – finding passion for life.
And we have a very simple way of encouraging this – called the Thymus Thump.
I have been doing it a lot during these frozen times. As I thump, I affirm my love of life in as many ways as I can think of.
So, I would recommend that you do this daily – find the slightly raised point on your breast-bone – about 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 centimetres) below the base of the throat. This is where you will find the thymus and this is the place to thump. And this is how you can support both your thaw and your immune system. It can help you to emerge from ice and begin to thaw.
Thump with different rhythms until you find the one your body likes. Say as many variations of ‘I love to be alive’ as you can think of. Look at yourself in a mirror as you do it.
Love and connection,
I began to feel the difference when I found that I was sleeping through the night. For several years this had been a rare event, with sleeplessness kicking in at about 2am. Often during this wakeful period came stomach upheaval and nausea.
This brilliant result came after I had been eliminating histamine from my diet for a few weeks – helped with muscle testing the foods most affecting my system.
I had never heard of histamine intolerance – until last year when my daughter mentioned she had heard about it in a podcast. I listened and it fitted with the symptoms I had experienced during 2020. I had two periods, each lasting almost a m, of vomiting and diarrhoea, also exhaustion, brain fog and general unwellness. It was all very unpleasant and concerning!
What is histamine?
Histamine is a neurotransmitter and is an important part of the immune system – released into the body when needed to deal with invasions by pollen, foods, bacteria or viruses for example. It also helps with regulation of body temperature, sleep patterns, wound healing, memory, brain signals, muscles of lung and uterus as well as widening blood vessels and bowel movements.
I was delighted to realise that some of the irritating symptoms I had experienced for years were related to histamine intolerance!! The heat round my face and neck, difficulty in regulating my body temperature and ongoing digestive / gut problems.
Histamine is stored in the tissues of the body and in the blood – awaiting the signal for its release to deal with invasions through intake of food, drink, breath or through the skin. It is broken down within the body by the enzymes DAO (diamine oxidase) and HNMT (histamine N-methyl transferase). Without enough of these enzymes, histamine builds up over time.
So, in a nutshell, the problems start either because we have a low-capacity pot for storing histamine or have a low threshold of DAO or HNMT.
The way I see what happened to me is that my pot of histamine had filled up over time and without enough DAO or HNMT to deal with this amount, the pot overflowed – literally!!
How can this overflow happen?
Several factors may be involved:
- stress and fear cause histamine levels to increase
- foods / drinks high in histamine add to the existing pot
- foods that suppress the action of DAO or HNMT mean that histamine cannot be broken down – such as alcohol, some prescription drugs or vitamin C or Zinc deficiencies
- low capacity for histamine storage means that the pot fills quickly
What to watch out for:
There are several symptoms or clusters of symptoms that may indicate a histamine Intolerance. Here are some of them:
- Skin problems such as hives, rosacea, psoriasis, itching, flushed skin, eczema
- Swelling round the mouth, face and throat, with or without heat
- Throat tightening
- Excess mucus / nasal congestion / blocked sinuses
- Watering eyes, reddened round the eyes
- Sneezing to excess
- Digestive problems: heartburn, indigestion, reflux, diarrhoea, constipation, symptoms similar to IBS
- Symptoms similar to allergy reactions – though allergy reactions occur almost immediately after taking in the substance – histamine reactions can be 24 hours or more after the excess histamine had been taken in, making it hard to know what exactly you may be reacting to
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
- Anxiety / panic attacks / dizziness
- Drop in blood pressure
- Chest pains
- Headaches / migraines
- Sleep difficulties, insomnia, sleeping a lot without feeling benefit
- Confusion / irritability / brain fog
- Asthma / breathing difficulties
- Heart arrhythmia
- Severe period pains
- Chilly and shivering / Breaking out in a sweat
I don’t have all of these symptoms, nor do I have the severe type of intolerance that I have read about. I have been able to make a difference by watching what I eat. I haven’t been able to tolerate alcohol for years – it made me feel nauseous! I had gone off tea so no problem there. Tomatoes I had a love/hate relationship to – they are definitely off the menu. I had recently discovered the joy of fermented foods – no more of them. While mature cheese and processed foods were never a favourite!
I think we have to find our own special mix of great food – cooking most of it from scratch, using fresh ingredients. It has made a huge difference to me. And I can report that my exhaustion is retreating, and I feel well!!
Here are some of the foods that bring a lot of histamine into the body.
- Tomatoes / spinach / aubergines / possibly avocadoes
- Fermented foods / pickled foods – such as sauerkraut / soy sauce
- Tea – black tea in particular as it is fermented! Cocoa can also be fermented
- Caffeine in coffee, tea and chocolate (and some soft drinks)
- Citrus fruits
- Matured foods such as cheese or salami
- Food additives, flavour enhancers, and colourings
- Some prescription drugs also contain a lot of histamine – best to check the contents of any medication you are taking.
For me it has been a several week process of eliminating and discovering – the foods that cause the problem and those that don’t. We are all different, so my mix of food will be different from anyone else’s.
There are many websites covering this subject – and so a lot of information available. So you can read more if you think this is relevant for you – if you think it is then my suggestion is that you begin by eliminating some of the foods and drinks on the list above – the ones your body may have a sense are the ones that are not great for you. Or check them out with muscle testing.