breathing for health

No one needs to convince us why we need to breathe. Sometimes, however, we need convincing as to why we should do it consciously, with awareness. Study after study shows us that intentional, abdominal breathing has direct affects on the body – this is good news. After all, it is free and can be done anywhere, at any time. Stress doesn’t have to get the best of us! By just a few minutes spent each day on the practices I’ll be describing below, one can invoke healing in the immune and nervous systems. This stuff calms the mind as well. Don’t we all need that, especially during this time?

When I demonstrate these techniques to my patients, I first begin by putting one hand on my chest and the other hand on my abdomen. This sort of check-in tells me whether I’mPhoto on 7-27-20 at 7.34 PM #2 breathing into my chest (shallow breathing) or whether I am taking a fuller breath in so that my belly expands (this is what we want). If my breathing is in my chest, I can consciously imagine my next inhalation moving deeper down into my body. I do this – as many breaths as it takes – until abdominal breathing is comfortable. Try it for yourself now. See what I mean?

From there, I love to move on to the 4:8 breathing technique. This is done by inhaling for 4 seconds, pausing for a second, then exhaling for 8 seconds. Simple, right? I like to do this for about 5 rounds or so. At that point I am really starting to notice the effects. The 4:8 breathing technique is so wonderfully calming.

Another way to encourage this kind of slow, rhythmic breathing is to use visualization. This was taught to me by one of my best yoga nidra teachers, Kamini Desai, PhD. With each exhalation, image that you are blowing the air out through a straw. So that’s inhaling through the nose, pausing for a second, then exhaling with softly pursed lips as if blowing through a straw. Really see that breath being pushed out through a skinny tube to slow everything down.

Another technique that involves counting, but in a much different way, is to count each inhalation and exhalation. Work downward, from 10 down to one. Some people recommend counting only the inhalations or the exhalations, while others recommend counting both. So, it would look like mentally/silently saying to yourself ‘10 I am inhaling…10 I am exhaling…9 I am inhaling…9 I am exhaling…8 I am inhaling,…’ and so on. When I was training in hypnotherapy, I was reminded that counting down (not up) was important to encourage greater levels of relaxation.

We all know that stress equals disease onset. In our overly-stressed society, conscious breathing has become a necessity. Not only do our bodies benefit, so do our minds. After all, the mind and body are linked – they make up a whole. You could even say that they are ONE. While these techniques are for anytime and anywhere, I find that they are perfect upon waking up each morning as well as at bedtime. That’s because an AM breathing practice sets the tone for the day, while the PM practice supports the melting away of stress and the day’s residue. It even adds to a solid sleep hygiene routine. With consistent practice, I expect that you will see a difference. I know I did.

If you’d like one-on-one coaching for stress management or support with your health goals, contact me. I can assist you in breathwork and in building a mediation practice. I offer guided imagery, hypnotherapy, and yoga nidra (a sleep-based meditation), in addition to counseling services.

 

Here’s to your health,

Kim

To order my book, Extraordinary Dreams, click here.

essential oil essentials

Ahhh, the aroma of lavender in the air – the luxurious sensation as the oil touches the skin… Unless that sends you into anaphylactic shock (Woah!). Yep, essential oils are all the rage these days. From claims of ailment alleviation to promises of enlightenment, essential oils are praised to the 10th degree. I absolutely love essential oils and use them often. Per client request, or having been granted permission to do so, I have also used them in both individual and group therapy sessions. Other times, I use essential oils before a therapy session to help me prepare, or afterward to release the day’s residue. A saltwater-essential oil bath does wonders!

While essential oils can do a ton of good, unfortunately, there are loads of misconceptions regarding them. During this time, especially, with the stress brought on by COVID-19, we are all looking for relief. Grabbing a few bottles of essential oils might be someone’s go-to remedy for a mental or emotional boost. This is a wonderful use for img_5326those properly educated on their use, thus aware of the benefits and possible drawbacks. When it comes to essential oils, use caution and consult with a professional before diving in. My biggest concern is that many people are ingesting synthetic essential oils, whereby making them anything but essential! Essential oils are for external use only and should be diluted with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, for example) or lotion. Before using essential oils, consult your healthcare provider, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications, or have any health conditions.

To help me uncover some of the BS surrounding essential oil use and the many unfounded claims, I interviewed Lisa Mandelbaum, L.Ac., DPLOM of Nevada County, California. Lisa is a licensed acupuncturist, functional medicine practitioner, and is certified in Oriental Medicine. She has studied essential oils extensively, even beyond her formal academic years.

When people ask me about the best essential oils for relaxation and for calming themselves before bed (both physically and mentally), lavender immediately comes to mind. Lisa confirmed, “Lavender is the key for sleep.” She added, “I also like grounding the bottom of the feet with black spruce.” What a lovely bedtime ritual.

Others wish to know which essential oils will help them stay asleep through the night. They’re sick and tired of waking up at three or four in the morning! This can be a tricky area. Lisa told me that this is “…hard to say because people wake up for different reasons.” If someone wakes up from pain, Lisa recommends frankincense. However if the awakening is due to anxiety, she suggests bergamot. While for grief, Lisa recommends geranium.

On a different note, there are essential oils that help with grounding anytime of the day or night. Cedar is one I have used for this purpose. Lisa highly recommends anything deep and rooty, such as black spruce and frankincense.

One of my favorite essential oils assists in opening the third eye. Just dab a drop of clary sage essential oil at the brow center, lie back and relax. Lisa taught me that one!

I wanted to know which oils were Lisa’s most loved. One of Lisa’s favorite essential oils is bergamot. She said, “It is super relaxing and fits everyone’s constitution. You place it near the tip of the ear.” Sometimes we just need to wake up and get going though. Lisa told me that placing a drop of “…rosemary on the top of the head is great for a burst of energy.”

In this May 2020 blog article, only a handful of essential oils have been named. Below, I will list just a few of them alongside some of their functions according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Bergamot: Regulates Qi; settling to the heart; balancing to the spirit.

Black Spruce: Strengthens lung and kidney; expels phlegm; strengthens the spirit.

Clary Sage: Activates Qi and blood; harmonizes the spirit.

Frankincense: Activates Qi and blood; Strengthens the spirit.

Lavender: Activates Qi; clears heat; calms the spirit.

You may soon find these wonderful oils ‘essential’ to your life, as I have mine. For more information on essential oil properties and functions or continuing education units for acupuncture and oriental medicine healthcare professionals, visit Snow Lotus at snowlotus.org.

For information on essential oil warnings and risks, here is one popular report: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/news/20170809/essential-oils-natural-doesnt-mean-risk-free