Belly Breathing

Abdominal breathing (also called diaphragmatic or belly breathing) is a way of a breathing that has many benefits that effect our entire body. The diaphragm is a thin muscle that sits at the base of the chest and separates the abdomen from the chest.

Belly breathing benefits

Belly breathing is at the center of the practice of meditation and yoga. These practices can greatly lessen depression, anxiety and sleeplessness as well as a range of other mental and physical illnesses.

But there are more benefits to belly breathing, even if we do not practice yoga or meditation. Here are just a few:

  • It helps us to relax, by lowering the harmful effects of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • It lowers our heart rate.
  • It helps to lower our blood pressure.
  • It lessens the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • It improves our core muscle stability.

But, by far, the biggest benefits of belly breathing is that it reduces stress.

Stress is at the root of many health conditions because it causes our immune system to not function at it’s best. Because of this, we are more susceptible to numerous conditions. Over time, chronic stress will cause anxiety and/or depression. Learning and practicing belly breathing can make a difference!

The reality of breathing is that over ninety percent of us are using less than fifty percent of our breathing capacity. We are inhaling very shallowly, taking in a minimal amount of oxygen. Our exhalations are also
marginal, which perpetuates the shallow inhalation. We are not fueling our blood and bodies with sufficient energy and we are not expelling enough carbon dioxide. Shallow breathing does not provide sufficient oxygen to our brain or other cells and has been linked with degenerative disease, poor quality of life and an early onset of death.

As babies, our breath was a full, connected rhythm through the
diaphragm that allowed complete circulation in our small bodies. As we grew older, that rhythm changed. For most, that change in breathing happened as toddlers. By age eleven, most of us breathe shallowly, engaging only the chest and not the solar plexus.

The following diaphragmatic breathing technique is reprinted from the Cleveland Clinic

Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed, with your knees bent and your head supported. You can use a pillow under your knees to support your legs. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.

Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.

Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible.

When you first learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, it may be easier for you to follow the instructions lying down, as shown above. As you gain more practice, you can try the diaphragmatic breathing technique while sitting in a chair.

Note: You may notice an increased effort will be needed to use the diaphragm correctly. At first, you’ll probably get tired while doing this exercise. But keep at it, because with continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing will become easy and automatic.

Try practicing this exercise 5-10 minutes about 3-4 times per day. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend doing this exercise, and perhaps even increase the effort of the exercise by placing a book on your abdomen.

Quick Steps to Mindfulness

Learn to enjoy a moment of happiness, at any time!  Follow these simple steps to Mindfulness and see the difference it makes for you!

Our lives are not about the past or the future, but the how true life is only available to us in the here and the now, and that is the place where our minds and our bodies are the most comfortable. Like finally being home after a stressful day, safe and sound.

Mindfulness is what allows us to see and feel happiness and calmness that is in our lives. This beautiful feeling is available to us in every moment of our daily life. Normally, when we breathe, we are not aware of our breath, it is a reflex action. But if we notice that breath and feel it as it goes into our body we will touch the simple miracle of being alive.

Most people are forgetful because they are not really living their lives but rather existing. They are not completely there a great deal of the time. Our brain is caught up in our worries, our fears, our anger, and our regrets. But these things concern either the past or the future. The most peaceful place we can exist in the current moment.

Mindfulness is when we are truly here, mind and body together, right here, right now! We breathe in and out mindfully, we bring our mind back to the present moment, and we are there. When our mind is with our body, we are experiencing the present moment. Then we are able to see the joy and happiness that comes naturally.

When we are mindful regularly, it becomes powerful. Our concentration becomes powerful, and when we are fully concentrated, we are better able to achieve our goals. We are calmer and more creative. We can make better decisions. We sleep better and we are more energetic.

Exercise #1: Mindful Breathing and Walking

This exercise is simply to identify the in-breath and the out-breath.

Notice that this is an in-breath, this is an out-breath. In order to notice our in-breath as an in-breath, we must bring our mind to ourselves. When we mindful, we are thinking of something. When we breathe mindfully, we notice that our breath comes in our body and it goes back out.

The object of our mindfulness, in this exercise, is our breath. We will simply focus our attention on our breath for a few moments. Breathing in, thinking, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, thinking this is my out-breath. When we do that, the mental racing will stop. That is the miracle of mindfulness. We don’t think of the past. We don’t think of the future. We don’t think of what we are going to fix for dinner, because we are focusing our attention, our mindfulness, on our breath.

Exercise #2: Concentration

We can do the second exercise while we breathe in. Simply follow our in-breath from the beginning to the end. If our in-breath lasts three or four seconds, then your mindfulness also lasts three or four seconds. Breathing in, think to yourself, I follow my in-breath all the way through. Breathing out, I follow my out-breath all the way through. From the beginning of our in-breath to the end of our out-breath, our mind is always there, watching the miracle of our breath. At this point, mindfulness becomes uninterrupted, and the quality of your concentration is improved.

If you are breathing in, and suddenly a thought comes into your mind, “What am I going to fix for dinner?” Don’t dwell on it. Just gently bring your mind back to your breath and continue to follow it all the way through. This the way we cultivate our mindfulness and our concentration. As you continue, your breathing will naturally and automatically become deeper and your breaths will become longer. Zero effort required on our part! Our body takes control and makes it happen.

Exercise #3: Being aware of Our Body

In the first exercise, we became aware of our in-breath and our out-breath. Because we have now generated the energy of mindfulness through mindful breathing, we can now use that energy to recognize our entire body.

“Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathing out, I am aware of my body.” This brings your mind completely back to your body. Mind and body become one. When our mind is with our body, we are experiencing the current moment, right here, right now. We are completely alive. We are in touch with the miracle that is life and the life that is available in ourselves and around us.

Exercise #4: Releasing Tension

Now that we are able to recognize our breath and our body, we are able to release the tension in our body. When we are completely aware of our body, we might notice there is tension or discomfort in a particular area of our body. This likely comes from stress in that part of your body. It might be caused from a physical stress or it might be caused from a mental stress. All mental stress is caused by thinking of either the past or the future. The tension and pain may have been accumulating for a long period of time. After time of stress, it will take a physical toll on our body.

In a sitting, lying, or standing position, it’s always possible to release tension. As we follow through on our breathing exercises, we can then focus on a particularly tight or painful area in our body and consciously work on releasing it. Think of the muscle stretching and relaxing. For example, if your shoulders feel tight, relax them and let them fall.

That is all there is! There are many ways we can get deeper into Mindfulness, but this is a way you can bring yourself back in to a calmer and healthier existence!  Namaste!

Lymphedema – Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Massage and Exercises

In March of 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to several factors, I chose to have a double mastectomy with no reconstruction. In addition to the mass that was removed, the surgeon also removed about a dozen axillary lymph nodes, which left me with lymphedema in my right arm and trunk.

It has been amazing to me that there is so little known about lymphedema in the medical community. But fortunately, I was able to get in to see a couple of good physical therapists who had training in lymphedema.

There are 2 types of lymphedema, primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is caused by a malformation of the lymph system. It can be congenital but if there is a history in the family, a child might be more prone to this malformation, so it is also said to be hereditary. Primary lymphedema can show up for the first time at any age from birth to your senior years. Secondary lymphedema is usually caused by some sort of damage to the lymph system. In my case, removal of lymph nodes.

Lymphedema is not picky; it occurs in both males and females of all ages. It is not curable, but it is manageable with just a little work and lifestyle changes.

As a disclaimer here, I am not a medical professional. I highly encourage you to seek out a professional that specialized in lymphedema. Insist that you at least be referred to a physical therapist with training in lymphatic diseases. This is a very painful disease and can be totally debilitating if it is not properly diagnosed and managed.

The purpose in managing your lymphedema is to move the lymph fluid. If you have missing chains of nodes or damaged nodes, the fluid will pool in that area and not get moved through the circulatory system. How do you do that? Manual lymphatic drainage and massage, compression, exercise and diet. Proper wrapping of your effected limb at night and compression garments during the day. Please talk to your lymphedema professional and have them help you get the proper fit on your garments and learning to properly wrap your affected limbs. Improper wrapping or ill-fitting compression garments can worsen your condition in a very short period. Improper wrapping can cause you to swell up quickly over night!

Your diet plays a big role in your lymphedema management as well. If you are at a normal weight, you are probably already eating a healthy diet. If you are overweight or obese, then try to lose some weight. You will see a change in your lymphedema. Lymphedema is not caused initially by being overweight but there is evidence that extra weight can, over time, cause damage to your lymph system. Losing weight and eating a healthy diet will make a difference in your lymphedema.

In this video, I will show you some manual lymphatic drainage massage techniques as well as some exercises to help you to move the lymph fluid in your abdomen and upper limbs. If you have kidney or liver issues, please check with your physician before doing this.

The manual lymphatic drainage should be done once a day. Typically, in the morning, after you remove your bandages and before you put on your compression sleeve. Always start with the unaffected side. This demo is geared towards right arm lymphedema. If your lymphedema is in your left arm, then you will need to start some of these massages with your right side.

Lymphatic massage is done very lightly and slowly. Your lymph nodes are just below the surface of your skin. You don’t want to compress them.  You just want to gently wake them up and move the fluid through them. Think of them as coffee filters! As the lymph fluid moved through the nodes, they will clean the fluid before sending it to your circulatory system.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is our ability to be aware of our own physical and emotional feelings, right here, right now. Watch a child at play and see how attentive they are. They are curious and fully engaged in the what they are doing. As we grow older, our tendency is to compare what we are experiencing to our experiences in the past or to plan how this experience will be useful to us in the future.

As adults, we miss so much in the current moment while we are looking to the past or the future. We are constantly driven by our ‘to do list’ and hindered by experiences of the past. Is it really possible to get a break from all of this?

“When you are present in this moment, you break the continuity of your story, of past and future.
Then true intelligence arises, and also love.”
                                                                            –     Eckhart Tolle

How do we learn to be mindful?

Mindfulness is about practicing staying present and noticing what arises moment by moment.

Meditation is one way we can find a quietening of the mind. With practice, we can learn ‘pauses’ and ‘awareness’ prompts in our daily routines. Mindfulness is really just being aware of what we are doing while we are doing it. Aware of out it feels, mentally and physically, and learning how to deal with any emotions these events may bring up.

Is mindfulness living in the moment?

Yes! But it is also about discovering how those “moments” make us feel. When we are mindful, we experience each moment as it unfolds, right here, right now. This awareness may present itself as kindness, curiosity, openness, acceptance, self love and letting go.

Perceiving with all of our senses (sound, sight, touch, smell and taste) takes our attention out of the regular realm of thinking and judging. We begin to recognize that there is more than our thoughts and feelings. Awareness or Mindfulness is our ability to be aware of our thoughts, feelings, sounds, how our body feels, the environment etc… without passing judgement on them.

The overwhelming evidence on Mindfulness is hard to ignore

Less stress, worry, negativity.   Better focus, work, sleep.   More health, fun and happiness

Overwhelming Mindfulness Research evidence shows that mindfulness boosts the immune system, intelligence, positive emotional states, self awareness, creativity, happiness, compassion and more…

Rather than worrying about the past or the future, when we are mindful, we live with what is happening now. As we become more skilled at managing our mindfulness, we gain resilience. This gives us the ability to effectively go thru our day rather than letting our day run us!

We begin to see things differently, as they really are, rather than how we thought they were due to our past experiences. This allows us to respond more effectively and appreciate more fully.

Why mindfulness just makes sense

With the benefits to mental and physical health, when we are present and live mindfully, we get past the ‘noise’ in our heads and begin to experience life more deeply. We begin to see the things we have been missing.

The sound of your child’s voice, the smell of rain, the colors of the leaves, the warmth of a hug, or the smile from a stranger. The miracle moments that make up our life that we have overlooked in the past.

All services now being offered through video conferencing as well as locally!

What is Reiki?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Reiki-1024x698.jpgReiki (pronounced ray-key) is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that helps to promote healing from within.

Reiki is a form of alternative medicine that uses energy therapy to bring healing to the physical, emotional, and mental bodies. This ancient Tibetan discipline was discovered by Japanese Buddhist Usui Mikao in 1922, who reintroduced it to the world. Reiki therapy channels Life Force energy (i.e. Prana, or Chi) through the body of your practitioner and in to your body using a hands-on technique. The name itself is derived from the Japanese word Rei, meaning “God’s wisdom” or “higher power” and Ki, which is the Japanese pronunciation of Chi.

What should I expect in a Reiki session?

You will lie on your back, fully clothed, on a massage table. If you are unable to lie on your back, please let your practitioner know so that they can make other arrangements for you. The practitioner will place their hands on you or slightly above you.

There are a series of hand positions used but there is no pressure on your body. This makes it ideal for all ages and conditions. You may feel a warmth or tingling from the practitioners hands as the life energy flows in to your body. The energy flows wherever it is required and you are only asked to lie still and quiet as this takes place. The treatment will last 30 minutes to an hour on average, based on the needs of the client. Receiving a Reiki treatment is a very relaxing and soothing experience which will leave you feeling relaxed and balanced.

How Reiki Helps Cancer Patients

Reiki has become a subject of curiosity for cancer patients everywhere. Studies and anecdotal evidence has shown that, in addition to promoting relaxation among patients, Reiki can also be used to encourage healing and provide other benefits. In fact, some studies have even explored the effect of Reiki on patients who are undergoing cancer treatment concurrently. These studies have found that, although Reiki is not a substitute for other cancer treatments, it may enhance these treatments and offer a number of benefits to patients as they eal with the symptoms and stresses of cancer.

All services now being offered through video conferencing as well as locally!