Breathing is a complicated issue. I know to some it seems simple…breathing is an involuntary action without which we would die. So, allow me to rephrase, Parkinson’s breathing is a complicated issue. Shallow breathing does not bring enough oxygen into your body. This exacerbates a number of unfavorable things, including fatigue and constipation. Deep belly breathing, diaphragm breathing, can bring so much more oxygen into your body. Imagine how your energy level would soar if your cells were nourished by an amount of oxygen much greater than they currently are receiving.
I have written about breathing before and have included some of that information in this post along with new information and a diagram to assist you. As you can see, the deeper your breath, the more the lungs expand downward into the diaphragm allowing for more oxygen to enter the body. In the discussion below, there is an explanation to assist you in learning how to do deep diaphragm breathing.
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, our organs work as organ systems with a yin (passive) and a yang (active) organ; the lungs and large intestine form an organ system. Regarding breathing, I look to the lungs (yin), but I also look to see how the large intestine (yang) is doing in the organ system. Also, this system impacts the skin and is associated with the emotion of grief.
Many Parkinson’s sufferers face the issue of constipation. This is a large intestine issue that could negatively impact the lungs, the skin and the emotional balance regarding grief. I know it did with me. Deep breathing was difficult. Regarding my skin, from December 2009 until I recovered, I lacked outer skin feeling — I did not feel someone’s touch on the surface of my skin, I did not feel mosquito bites, or cuts, or burning my hand on the stove, or hot water doing dishes, or hot water in the shower.
And the emotion of grief. Yes, it is very difficult to have Parkinson’s and not grieve over your daily misgivings. That was a constant battle for me in the beginning. However, it caused me to re-focus my energy on keeping faith and moving forward. Just because we understand that anger and frustration and fear and worry and grief all are detrimental to recovery does not mean that these little demons do not show up to play every day. That is where faith plays a big part. 1 Faith trumps 100 Demons.
Let’s circle back around to breathing. I started with the basics. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Here is a method to assist with bringing in the most amount of oxygen possible. Lay on the floor on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. This should have lowered the small of your back to the floor. Place one hand on your chest and one on your navel. Inhale slowly and see which hand rises. If it is your navel hand, you are breathing into your diaphragm and you are in good shape for deep breathing exercises. If it is your chest hand, you need to practice. When I first learned diaphragm breathing, I would push out my stomach prior to the inhale and try to direct the airflow down to my expanded stomach. With Parkinson’s, rigidity will fight this, so be patient.
Once you have mastered diaphragm breathing, or deep belly breathing as some call it, try this:
1. Inhale deeply for a count of 4.
2. Hold your breath for a count of 4.
3. Exhale for a count of 4.
4. Hold your breath for a count of 4.
If you can do this set of breathing four times in a row, it should go a long way to helping with the breathing issues you are facing with Parkinson’s.
If you are having a difficult time taking in a large breath, In “Not Always So,” Shunryu Suzuki suggests starting with an exhale…he says to exhale like it is your last breath before you die. Keep pushing out air until your body forces an inhale. This method will certainly force your system to comply. Another way he discusses breathing and exhaling first is in how you view the process. He says, first exhale to blow out all of the toxins and impurities, then you are ready to receive a breath of the world’s nourishment. Instead of “taking” a breath or air, you are “receiving” Mother Nature’s nourishment. I like these ideas and practice them, but the key is to breathe deeply and exhale fully.
By the way, until I fully recovered from Parkinson’s, my outer skin feeling was non-existent. It came back with my full recovery. Be strong, keep the faith, heal from deep within. And don’t forget to breathe…deeply!
You are worth it!!!
All my best,
Please note: My Tampa Parkinson’s Recipe for Recovery™ workshop is this upcoming Saturday, February 16th. Click here to register. At all of the workshops, I provide the participants the Parkinson’s Recipe for Recovery™ Manual. If you are unable to attend this workshop or a future workshop and would like a copy of the Manual, it is now available for purchase. Click here to get your Manual.
Since I got off of one of my medications and my symptoms returned, fatigue has been an issue for me. And I have felt the need to get more air by taking a deep breath throughout the day. Now I see you have written here how these two are related. There you go again, Howard speaking to the “unasked question” at the perfect time! I do appreciate you!
I am going to add the 4x4x4 breathing exercise to my daily routine.
Wow Howard, this was excellent to read. I didn’t know large intestines and lungs are a unit like that. I will now incorporate the 4x4x4 breathing routine too. When I play harmonica it is the only time I noticed I breath from my diaphram . It’s exhausting and I can only play for a l ittle at a t ime. Maybe with the new breathing practice play can be extended or not as hard to do. I exercise my muscles to help with symptoms, why should exercising the diaphram muscles – intestine be any different. Hugs to you Howard !
Thank you Howard a good thing to know when I get anxious. Cheers x
I have been experienceing a lot of anxiety in the morning lately.
After reading about deep breathing and starting to calm down while practicing the breathing, I realized I have been adding milk and cheese to my diet.
There is a definite link to anxiety and milk products for me.
Thank you Howard .
Hi All. You are welcome. Yes, as you do the deep breathing, many good things occur — more oxygen to your cells for more energy and more healing, the diaphragm presses down on your intestines to assist with relieving constipation, and the lungs function at a higher level which assists with toxin cleansing. I am happy to see that this post resonated with you.
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i am back from my long vacation. missed you all .howard your blogs with diagrams makes it more impressive.
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