All breathing exercises will be accompanied by a line diagram. To interpret each diagram, it is essential to understand the following:
All breathing exercises and the Control Pause – which involves breath holding – are performed after an exhalation.
Measure Breathing Volume – Your Control Pause
To measure the extent of your relative breathing volume, a very simple breath hold test called the Control Pause (CP) is used. The Control Pause will provide feedback on your symptoms and, more importantly, your progress. Your CP measures the length of time that you can comfortably hold your breath.
For this you will need a watch or clock with a second hand.
- Take a small silent breath in and a small silent breath out.
- Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air entering into your lungs.
- Count how many seconds until you feel the first signs of an air hunger.
- Your inhalation at the end of the breath hold should be no greater than your breathing prior to taking the measurement.
- Release your nose and breathe in through it.
If your breath in is disrupted, then you have held for too long and so have an inaccurate CP.
Important things to be aware of before we start:
- The breath is taken after gently exhaling.
- The breath is held until the first urges only. It is not a measurement of the maximum length of time that you can hold your breath.
- The CP is a measurement of your breath hold time only. It is not an exercise to correct your breathing.
Remember that the CP is holding your breath only until the first urges. If you had to take a big breath at the end of the breath hold, then you held it for too long. The most accurate CP is taken first thing in the morning after waking up.
What does the CP (comfortable breath hold time) mean?
The lower your breath hold, the greater your breathing volume and the greater your anxiety symptoms. Big breathers are naturally more stressed than correct volume healthy breathers. A person with a high CP will be a lot more relaxed and calm than a person with a lower CP. People who experience panic or hyperventilation attacks are invariably big breathers. The objective is to reach a CP of 40 seconds.
Essential rules to make progress:
- You will feel better each time your CP increases by 5 seconds.
- If your CP does not change, you will not feel better.
- Your CP should increase by 3 – 4 seconds each week.
- The most accurate CP is taken first thing after waking. You cannot influence your breathing during sleep. As a result, this CP is the most accurate as it is based on your breathing volume as set by the respiratory centre.
- Your CP as taken throughout the day will provide feedback of your symptoms at that time.
- Your goal is to have morning CP of 40 seconds for 6 months.
Three steps to increasing your CP:
STEP 1: Observe your breathing throughout the day and stop big breathing;
- Close Your Mouth
- Stop Sighing – swallow
- Apply gentle calm breathing
- Never hear your breathing during rest
STEP 2: Apply gentle reduced breathing
- Stilling the mind
STEP 3: Take physical exercise with correct breathing (physical exercise is necessary to increase the CP from 20 to 40 seconds; ,more details further on).
STEP 1 is the foundation. Make the change to nasal breathing on a permanent basis, suppress your sighs, be aware of your breathing and ensure that it is quiet throughout the day. A regular sigh is enough to maintain chronic hyperventilation; therefore it is very important to stop sighing by swallowing or holding your breath. Unless your foundation is strong, your progress will not be good. If you sigh and have taken a large breath, then hold your breath for ten seconds to counteract this. You will make progress by keeping your mouth closed but this will not be enough by itself. It is also necessary to reverse the overbreathing habit that has developed over the years.