Master Your Breath: Top 5 Breathing Techniques for Health and Well-Being, Especially Beneficial for the Ataxia Community

Breath Technique - Michaelmantz ataxia4

Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life.

Gregory MaguireA Lion Among Men

Breathing is necessary for survival, but its power goes beyond that. Our physical and emotional health can be greatly impacted by the way we breathe. Becoming familiar with certain breathing methods can be especially helpful for those of us living with Ataxia. These strategies provide a unique path toward stress management, improved focus, or general health improvement.

Diaphragmatic Breathing (Deep Belly Breaths):

Deep belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is a basic method that serves as the basis for several other areas. It involves taking deep breaths using the diaphragm, a muscle situated between the chest and the abdomen. Sadly, a lot of us have become accustomed to shallow breathing, using our chests instead of our diaphragms. This is something we have discussed many times during my speech therapy.

Example: To practice diaphragmatic breathing, find a comfortable seated position or lie down. You will want to put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your abdomen to expand, while keeping your chest relatively still.  Exhale through your mouth, letting your abdomen contract.  Repeat this process for several minutes, gradually increasing the length of time.

A great technique for managing stress is deep belly breathing, which triggers the body’s relaxation response and promotes a sense of calm. Frequent practice helps strengthen lung capacity, boost the body’s supply of oxygen, and enhance respiratory effectiveness overall.

Box Breathing (Four-Square Breathing):

Balancing the four stages of the breath—inhale, hold, exhale, and hold—is the basis of the box breathing technique, which is also known as square breathing.  This technique works especially well for lowering anxiety, enhancing focus, and promoting a sense of balance.  This is something I was introduced to by a physical therapist during my head tremors last year.

Example:  In order to practice box breathing, take a deep breath, hold it for four counts, exhale slowly for four counts, hold it again for four counts, and then start the cycle over.  Throughout the process, it’s important to keep a constant and controlled rhythm.

Box breathing promotes calmness and concentration by balancing the self-regulating nervous system.  Athletes and military personnel use this method frequently to reduce stress and perform better under pressure.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

Alternate nostril breathing is a method that comes from traditional yoga practices and is used to promote harmony within the body and balance the two hemispheres of the brain.  Nadi Shodhana, as it’s known in yoga, involves alternating the flow of breath between the left and right nostrils.

Example:  Sit comfortably with a straight spine to practice breathing through your alternate nostrils.  Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril.  Then, close your left nostril with your ring finger, release the right nostril, and exhale through it.  Breathe in through your right nostril, close it, let go of your left nostril, and then exhale through it.  One round is finished with this. Continue for a few rounds, extending the duration each time.

It’s a great exercise for anyone who wants better mental performance and emotional balance.

4-7-8 Breathing (Relaxing Breath Technique):

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, sometimes referred to as the calming breath and created by Dr. Andrew Weil, is a straightforward but effective way of achieving a state of relaxation.  The basis of this technique is the idea of calming the nervous system by adjusting the breath-to-breath ratio.

Example:  To practice 4-7-8 breathing, inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale completely through your mouth for a count of eight.  This completes one breath cycle. Repeat the process for four cycles to start, gradually increasing the number as you become more comfortable with the technique.

The 4-7-8 breathing method works well for lowering anxiety and stress levels as well as encouraging deeper sleep.  This method offers a simple and rapid method of triggering the body’s relaxation response.

Breath of Fire:

The first thing that came to my mind as I was researching for this article, was Daenerys Targaryen. You know, Game of Thrones.  Ha-ha, no, it is not that! It is an energizing and purifying breathing technique known as Kapalabhati, or Breath of Fire, which is derived from the traditional Indian pranayama practice.  This involves powerful, quick exhalations followed by passive inhalations with an emphasis on the diaphragm’s movement.

Example:  To practice Breath of Fire, sit comfortably with a straight spine and take a few deep breaths. Then, begin a rapid and rhythmic series of forceful exhalations through the nose, allowing the inhalation to happen naturally. Focus on the exhalation, engaging the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. Start with short bursts and gradually increase the duration as you become accustomed to the rhythm.

It’s a great way to boost energy, promote mental clarity, and improve mental focus.

Conclusion:

Gaining control over your breathing can have a positive impact on both your physical and emotional health.  But the key lies in consistent practice.  Experiment with these techniques, find what works best for you, and make conscious breathing a habit.  The power to transform your life is just a breath away.

If you have any experience or advice, with breathing techniques, for the Ataxia community, please leave a comment.  And if you would like to get involved and share your experience with Ataxia, drop us a line.

Join our community today.  A place where we empower you to build a healthy lifestyle and raise overdue Ataxia Awareness.  Experience transformative storytelling and share your story to inspire positive change.


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