For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.Sanskrit Proverb
Breathing, so rudimentary and basic. I think we’ve established what Corona is reminding us to do: get back to the basics. Start today with diaphragmatic breathing. It is so important, such a fundamental building block to the quality of your breath, which influences the amount of stress in your body which influences the quality of your life.
You no doubt have some extra anxiety and uncertainty these days. Hopefully you no longer need to be convinced that in the same way your stress level affects the quality of your breathing , the quality of your breathing (which you can practice now!) affects your stress level. Now is the time.
As someone who learned and practices these techniques for influencing levels of stress, anxiety, sleep and for meditative reasons, it works. And I can tell you as someone who, along with most of my family, has been dealing with Covid symptoms for the last two weeks, the shortness of breath thing and chest/back pain associated with this virus is real, and unpleasant. We have been quite lucky and respiratory symptoms have been mild. We know some who have not been and whose symptoms jumped from being strong but manageable to critical very quickly. Covid-19 creates an attack like a fibrosis in your respiratory system. The pressure on your chest and restriction with breathing is not fun hHaving some techniques to use has been invaluable.
Hydration and breathing exercises will help keep your lungs strong and healthy, before, during and after exposure to the virus. And, they help with anxiety.
I believe: We are in quarantine to flatten the curve, that means to slow the pace at which this highly contagious virus moves through communities. Watching how it has moved through this community and our households, I have a healthy respect for how almost impossible it is to stop the spread. SO instead, we pace it out, so those who need care will get it rather than having our medical system inundated all at once. Covid is coming your way, it is just a matter to having it be a slow rising tide you are prepared for, rather than a devastating tidal wave. I think being prepared to deal with symptoms-particularly anxiety producing ones- is every bit as important as having diligence to keep them away. Quite frankly, I think of it as a responsibility; keep your lung strength up. Flatten the curve in your community with belly breathing.
Box breathing– What my son is doing, see a wonderful video which will pace you nicely. Breathe deep into your belly when you do this.
Sandbag (diaphragmatic) breathing. It is right below your ribs, shaped like a parachute.
- Lay down with loose clothing. If you want you can use a thin pillow under your neck and head, and bend your knees slightly, this will make it easier to relax your belly. Relax.
- Place a ten pound sand bag, which assuming you don’t have that laying around, 2 large rice bags in an upside down V just below your ribs, on your upper abdomen. (see picture above of diaphragm location; the diaphragm is shaped like a parachute.) The weight pressing down will make it easier for you to use your diaphragm and surpass your chest which is likely where you will feel tension.
- Breathe in and out using your diaphragm only(through the nose). Breathe relaxed and as rhythmically as you can, keeping the inhalations and exhalations somewhat the same length.
- You could try breathing without the weight to start with, then put it on, then after 5 minutes, put it off and notice the difference in the breath,
Legs up the wall This is a wonderfully restorative yoga pose known as an inversion. In addition to opening the hips and stretching the hamstrings and lower back, blood flows from your legs where it can pool to your upper body, bringing a rush of oxygen and a flush to your lymphatic system. You should stay in this pose 15-20 minutes for full benefit. Here’s a quick link on how to do it-esp to get in and out of it. https://youtu.be/MUstbNHB5-o
My own tools– A few things I have been taught which help me tremendously:
- I picture an accordion and also an octopus when I picture my lungs. With the air in the bottom of my lungs expanding not just in the front, but also the back and sides. This was taught to me during some shiatsu instruction that was part of my yoga teacher training. The visualization that your lungs are not only expanding in front of you but like a girdle going all the way around has helped me tap into entire regions of my lungs I was ignoring.
- Another thing I visualize came from Pema Chödrön, and that is the idea that the energy you are breathing in does not have a hard stop point at the top or bottom of a breath. I believe the analogy she used was that your lungs are permeable, so when breathing in not to picture a balloon at capacity that is about to burst. So instead I add a little softness at the top and the bottom of a full breath so it is not quite such a harsh process, which I think we can tend to make. Relax into a rhythm, and enjoy.
- We have a theragun–https://www.theragun.com/us/en-us/g3pro-us.html. Helped so tremendously with back of the chest pain and breathing constriction. Some sort of pressure or clapping on the back is really helping breathing. (PS Elinor’s home remedy, please use at your own discretion, I take no responsibility. Just sharing what is helped us.
Here also please see my friend Jody’s facebook posts which i think were so helpful in describing patience required while navigating a relatively mild case of Covid-19. This is consistent with most every one I know’s experience, including ours.