Breathe!

Breathing clipart human breathing, Breathing human breathing ...

We usually breathe without thinking about it. It may come as a revelation to learn that there is more than one way to breathe and that how we breathe affects our posture and mobility. There are also a variety of breathing techniques that can be utilized. Most people use a chest-oriented breathing pattern. They take a deep breath by expanding their rib cage. They pull their stomach in and breathe only into their rib cage, lifting it up as they inhale. This type of breathing recruits the chest, neck, shoulder and upper back muscles, which leads to poor posture and chronic tension, which in turn reduces mobility.

The most efficient and effective way to breathe is diaphragmatic or lower abdominal breathing. In the clip art image to the left, the top of the diaphragm is represented by the curving red line at the bottom of the lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing is sometimes referred to as belly breathing. Try placing the edge of your hands alongside the lower rib cage where the red line is and take a breath. If you experience a noticeable lateral expansion of the rib cage, you have taken a diaphragmatic breath. Now exhale by squeezing an imaginary sponge upwards in the stomach. Another way to make sure you are breathing diaphragmatically is to put the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. This stimulates your vagus nerve ending, which is involved in the regulation of breathing, and causes diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing has many benefits. It decreases blood pressure, decreases stress, decreases heart rate, and decreases pain and pain awareness. It also increases circulation, increases blood flow to the muscles, improves digestion, and improves ability to focus. Combining diaphragmatic breathing with extension exercises in the water is one way to decrease pain. Try walking backward and breathing diaphragmatically, lifting the crown of your head each time you inhale. Next press your shoulder blades down on inhalation. Relax completely during exhalation. Point your thumbs out to externally rotate the shoulders on inhalation and again relax completely during exhalation. For more information on diaphragmatic breathing, see the article written by Ruth Sova, the founder of the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute, “Pain and Our Breathing Patterns” in Akwa June/July 2019 and her article “Aquatic Therapy Implementation” in Research to Practice Newsbytes Vol. 1 No. 2 Find the articles by logging onto the members only section of the AEA website.

The use of diaphragmatic breathing during exercise helps you increase your aerobic capacity, since it increases circulation and blood flow to the muscles. This is important for exercisers wishing to improve or maintain their levels of fitness. Elite athletes wishing to improve their performance may take the extra step of having the maximum amount of oxygen their bodies can utilize during exercise, or VO2 Max, measured in the lab. For more information on VO2 Max, see the article written by Dr. Luis Javier Pena-Hernandez, MD, FCCP in Garage Gym Reviews.

There are also breathing techniques to facilitate a variety of outcomes. The USMD Health System encouraged a 4-7-8 breathing exercise that is proven to help people relax. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds with gusto! Dr. Nick Shroff, a urologist and Yoga teacher in Plano, Texas, did a presentation on breathing at a Yoga festival on June 16, 2022. He also described the 4-7-8 breathing technique, adding that it helps to put your hand on your belly and push the hand out as you inhale (diaphragmatic breathing), then relax the shoulders as you hold your breath, and finally push the belly in and relax the jaw as you exhale. He said it not only relaxes you but it also helps you fall asleep. Pursed lip breathing increases lung capacity. Breath in for 2 seconds, the breathe out for 4 seconds with pursed lips, as if you are blowing out a candle. An intentional breath hold improves fitness, calms the nervous system and decongests the nose. Take a small breath in and exhale a small breath, then hold your breath until the first sign of breath hunger. To make breathing more efficient during rest, close the mouth and inhale through the nose, then open the mouth and exhale as if you are trying to fog a mirror, whispering “ahhh!” Humming Bee breathing increases oxygenation to tissues, soothes the nervous system, and ventilates the sinuses. Inhale through the nose, then do a prolonged exhale with a humming sound. Press your ear flaps with your fingers to focus on the humming vibration. .If someone is hyperventilating, they are quickly taking in oxygen but not exhaling enough CO2. Breathing in a paper bag makes them inhale their exhaled CO2 and restores balance. Finally Dr. Stroff said that observing your breath anchors your mind in the present. (See my blog post on Mindfulness.) Laurie Denomme, the founder of WECoach, an organization that trains and supports water fitness instructors, described a breath optimizing strategy developed by Carl Stough, the founder of the Institute of Breathing Coordination. His strategies were used with emphysema patients and later by Olympic athletes to handle greater workloads. He called one breath strategy “whisper counting.” First inhale, then as you exhale, in a low whisper count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 quickly and as many times as you can until you naturally run out of air. Then take a breath.

I find this fascinating and I’m looking forward to practicing diaphragmatic breathing with my classes. See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo
Chris Alexander

Anxiety Attacks: What They Are and How to Fight Them

The holiday season is not joyful for everyone. Thanks to Sophie Letts and https://www.meditationhelp.net/ for this guest article. Image via Rawpixel.

Anxiety is normal. As your body’s reaction to danger, anxiety can protect you in challenging, threatening, or heavy-pressure situations. However, when you deal with regular anxiety attacks, they can negatively impact your health and well-being.

Anxiety attacks, or panic attacks, refer to moments of extreme fear or panic. These episodes typically come out of nowhere and can be difficult to control once they start. Most anxiety attacks cease within 10 to 30 minutes. 

If you suffer anxiety attacks on a regular basis, now is the time to take action. Consider these practical methods for preventing them in the future:

Leave Your Job    

One of the most common sources of frequent anxiety and anxiety attacks is work. If you are getting anxious at your job, think about shifting your career. These days, there are accredited online universities that allow you to earn a degree without ever going to a campus. If you need to further your education and training so that you can succeed in a new line of work, this might be the way to go. You can pursue an online bachelor’s degree in IT, business management, healthcare management, or any number of other fields.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

One effective way to prevent panic attacks, or stop a current attack, is to relax your body and focus on your breath. The next time you feel anxiety crouching at your door, try this simple exercise:

  • Close your eyes.
  • Slowly breathe in through your nostrils for five seconds.
  • Hold your breath for five seconds.
  • Release your breath through your mouth for five seconds.
  • Repeat these steps for one minute.

You could also sign up for a class or find an online tutorial that covers breathing techniques, meditation, and other relaxation activities.

Avoid Harmful Substances

Sometimes, the culprit of an anxiety attack is simply the substances we consume. If you naturally deal with anxiety and you drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol, you are likely not doing yourself any favors. The same goes for nicotine; while many people smoke cigarettes to calm their nerves, nicotine tends to increase anxiety rather than decrease it.

Eat Well and Exercise     

It’s also important to take care of your physical health because it is closely related to your mental and emotional health. Make sure you’re abiding by a nutritious, balanced diet each day. While you may not need to adopt the strictest diet out there, you do want to be mindful of limiting the processed foods, salt, fat, and sugar you consume.

Also, find a physical activity you enjoy, and get into a consistent fitness routine. Whether it is playing a recreational sport, running, walking, swimming, or doing any other activity, you might be surprised by how much better you feel when you get into a rhythm. Turn to online sources like Water Fitness Lessons if you need ideas for getting started!

Prioritize Quality Sleep

Sleep deprivation can make your anxiety worse, and adults need at least seven hours of restful sleep each night to promote health and productivity. The problem is that anxiety is a common culprit when it comes to sleep problems. Try to develop a bedtime routine that relaxes your mind and body; meditating, listening to soft music, and avoiding electronic screens have been known to help people fall asleep and stay asleep.

Maintain Your Close Relationships

Lastly, don’t allow isolation and loneliness to trigger or exacerbate your anxiety. Stay connected to close relatives and friends with whom you can share your worries and enjoy your time. Meet people in person when possible, but at the very least, keep up through video chat and other online channels. The point is that you don’t become an island of one, which can keep you in a harmful cycle of anxiety.

While not all anxiety is bad, you need to address your anxiety if it is controlling your life. Consider the tips above as you look to make meaningful changes to your routine, and keep researching other ways that you can keep your anxiety at bay. Before long, you will be calmer and more able to navigate the challenges that life brings.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander

Effective Self-Care Techniques You May Not Have Considered Before

Photo Credit Pexels

This guest Blog Post was written by Cheryl Conklin. Check out her site at https://wellnesscentral.info/

Self-care is all the rage. No matter where you look, there’s someone posting about their favorite bath bomb or face mask or posting pics of their morning’s green smoothie. Although these are perfectly legitimate forms of self-care, they’re not effective for everyone. Some people won’t get as much out of a warm bath as they will out of re-organizing their pantry, for example.

Figuring out the self-care techniques that work for you and your lifestyle is essential for creating a happier, healthier life for yourself. Water Fitness Lessons wants to give you the tools you need to build the best habits. To start, it’s always important to make sure you’re exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. Here’s a look at a few more effective forms of self-care that many people don’t think of when planning healthy routines for themselves.

Assess Your Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and there are even good forms of stress. However, too much stress can take a toll on our physical and mental health. Stress reduction is a great form of self-care, and it can be simple to implement. For starters, gauge where most of your stress comes from. Is it taking care of your family? Is it the frustration of a supervisory role at work? Are you overextending yourself by agreeing to everything all the time? These are the first places to look.

Once you identify your biggest stressors, look for ways to mitigate their effects. At work, look to delegate tasks to your staff, or look into courses for more effective management techniques. If it’s family, ask your partner to take a larger share of responsibilities, or enlist your children to tackle chores and tasks that take up your time. Saying no will likely be the hardest but learning to say no will pay off down the road. Start small, then try it again. You don’t have to be available to everyone all the time.

Assess Your Budget

Few people would list budgeting at the top of their list of self-care techniques, but it’s a shockingly important form of taking care of yourself and your household. Finances cause more stress than you might realize, notes the American Psychological Association. When money is tight, you have to spend a lot of time and mental energy figuring out how to make ends meet. Good budgeting can help make sure your money stretches far enough to survive and thrive with long-term goals.

If you look at your monthly expenses and find that your monthly expenses are too high, there are several steps you can take. If you own a home, you can investigate refinancing to see if you can get a better rate (and a lower monthly payment) on your home loan. You can also save money by trying to cut back on restaurant visits and cooking more at home, or by buying items you use regularly in bulk to save on price per unit.

Schedule Alone Time

If you live with family, roommates, or any other household situation, you might need to consider working alone time into your schedule. Many people who live with others don’t really get to spend much if any time alone. Although having a strong social network is good for you, most of us need to have some time to ourselves to rest, recharge and relax. Without it, we can start to feel like we’re always “on” in a sense.

There are many great ways to enjoy some alone time. For example, you can pair your solitude with a walk around the neighborhood, going for a swim or an online exercise video. You can enjoy an exciting book or indulge in a favorite hobby. It’s usually best to pick something you can’t easily do with others, or something you know you’d especially enjoy tackling solo. This way you’re getting the most out of your time.

Get Outside

Finally, many of us spend nearly all our time indoors. This means we miss out on the myriad benefits you receive when spending time outside. Sunlight and fresh air are absolutely invaluable when it comes to health and wellbeing. Most directly, sunlight allows our bodies to produce Vitamin D, a vital nutrient that helps our body do everything from fight infection to regulate mood. More time outside can help you feel happier, more energized, and ready to take on the world.

This is just the start of the benefits of getting outside. According to Harvard Medical School, people who spend more time outdoors tend to be more active, have healthier habits over all, and may even live longer. Consider going on a hike or visiting a nearby park a few times a week. You can also look into creating a relaxing outdoor space on your property or get into an outdoor hobby like gardening.

Remember, self-care doesn’t have to be photogenic or glamorous — it needs to be effective. Search for the healthy habits and self-care techniques that suit your needs, passions, and lifestyle. In doing so, you’ll give yourself the best chance at sticking with them and fostering real, long-term change.

See you in the pool!

Author/Instructor Photo

Chris Alexander