How Rhythms Can Heal: Start with the Breath

Posted by on Aug 24, 2013 in Acupuncture, Anxiety, Meditation, Performance, Stress Management

“How many treatments will it take for me to get better?”  This is a great question that I get all the time.   If someone complains of a knee injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, or plantar fasciitis I can give a clear answer based on my experience treating that injury in the past.  However when a patient presents with anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis or other chronic conditions the question becomes more difficult to answer.   Much depends on the frequency of treatment, the overall health and constitution of the individual at the beginning of treatment and the willingness of the patient to get enough sleep, eat reasonably well, and have a technique to relieve stress.

One of the ways we can engage the power of our bodies to heal is to engage the power of rhythms.  One only has to listen to the waves lapping the shore, watch a sunrise, or put a hand over the heart to realize this.  Some body rhythms are obvious, like the breath, the blinking of eyes, sleeping, hunger, or the menstrual cycle.  Others are not so obvious like the activities of the endocrine system, blood sugar regulation via the interplay between cortisol and insulin, and the production of ATP via the krebs cycle.

Acupuncture helps to relax the activities of the sympathetic nervous system (the part that gets activated in the flight or fight response) and increase the activities of the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest function).  When the sympathetic nervous system is activated the immune system effectively shuts down, sleep is disturbed, appetite either disappears or is oriented towards simple sugars and the body gets ready for instant action.  This environment is not helpful if one is trying to recover from any type of chronic condition whether it’s depression or eczema.

By allowing the body to follow it’s natural rhythms, resources move to where they’re needed and the healing activities of the body are engaged.  Breathing can set the tone for this entire process by decreasing stress (cortisol) and activating the parasympathetic nervous system.  This is the body beginning to resonate with itself again, to live naturally, to exist as it was designed. By breathing well you will immediately become healthier. Right now you’re not breathing properly.  Almost everyone breathes only into their chest and not into the bottom third of the lungs. Here’s how to do it right:

1. Relax and close your eyes.  Put one hand on the abdomen and one on the chest.

2. Take a slow deep breath into the belly.  You should feel the hand on the belly move. The hand on the chest should stay still or move only slightly.

3. Exhale slowly and comfortably.

4. Repeat

5. Do this for 10 breaths 3 times a day.  Do it when you’re sitting in traffic, waiting in line or bored at a meeting.  You will be amazed at how much better you feel.

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