The question is simple, yet so many of us are breathing wrong.
When I was in naturopathic medical school, at Bastyr University, I took a biofeedback rotation where all we did with our patients was hook them up to sensors, and teach them how to relax. We didn't use medicines, vitamins, herbs, or physically adjust them. We had to rely solely on the "medicines" our patients' bodies could make on their own.
Most patients, when they finally showed up, were skeptical our techniques could do anything. Some thought a referral to our shift was a sign that their doctor thought "everything was in their head." That wasn't true - it's just that many of them didn't want to take medications, or didn't respond well to other treatments. So what did I learn from working on this rotation?
I learned that in as little as two minutes of taking a patient through these exercises we could significantly lower high blood pressure, eliminate reliance on anti-anxiety medications, and drastically reduce the number of pain-killers our patients were taking! This was all from teaching them how to breathe (and monitoring that it was working).
Basically the breathing techniques work by retraining the autonomic nervous system, the "fight or flight" and "rest and digest" responses. A non-invasive heart rate variability (HRV) monitor helps us assess how well we're responding to the technique. Most people can learn the technique quickly, and get benefits immediately with maximum effect usually coming 4-6 weeks after beginning.
If you feel like you could use some help relaxing, if you want to reduce your anxiety, blood pressure, or chronic pain ask if HRV biofeedback could help.
Michael Stanclift, ND
Naturopathic Doctor - Carlsbad, CA