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BREATHING TECHNIQUES & THE MENOPAUSE

THE ART OF BREATHING


IT'S TIME TO .....

DOWN-REGULATE YOUR STRESS

REDUCE CORTISOL LEVELS

&

MANAGE YOUR MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS



It is well documented and understood, that the fluctuation of certain hormone levels, (particularly, but not limited to, estrogen and progesterone) is responsible for the many common physical, emotional and psychological symptoms experienced during the peri- to post- menopausal transition. While it is widely reported that there are 34 "common" symptoms of "the menopause", more than 100 symptoms of peri- to post-menopause have actually been identified. So a cautionary word here; do not be fobbed off by a doctor if you are experiencing physical, emotional or psychological symptoms other than those considered to be within the classic 34. Over the past couple of decades, there has been widespread prescription of antidepressant medication for example. This has been found to be totally inappropriate in many cases. Many GPs are sadly lacking in menopause training, and are subsequently failing to correctly support our growing population of menopausal women.


While hormones are a major player and are ultimately what we are aiming to regulate, over the course of this series of articles, I am bringing you some top tips on how to CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLES; the elements within your life that you can control and modify to help support your health, and that will help to reduce the prevalence and severity of many symptoms.


Here we are focussing on BREATHING techniques and why they are so beneficial to learn.


WHY RE-LEARN TO BREATHE?

Well, to answer this we need to understand a little about the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which is comprised of 3 systems, the activation of which will influence your response to stimuli or stressors. How you respond to stressors, in whatever form they take, can be consciously adapted by your awareness and practice of breathing and relaxation techniques that will down-regulate your sympathetic nervous system, while activating your parasympathetic nervous system.


The ANS

The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS) is sometimes known as our rest and digest mode, and it forms one third of our autonomic nervous system, alongside the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) also known as the fight or flight mode, and our enteric system (ENS), sometimes referred to as our second brain.

When the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is activated, it slows our heart and breathing rates, lowers blood pressure and promotes digestion. Our body enters a state of relaxation, and this relaxation breeds recovery. The more time we spend in a PSNS state, the healthier we are.



The sympathetic nervous system tells the body to get ready for physical and mental activity. It causes the heart to beat harder and faster and opens the airways for easy breathing. It also temporarily stops digestion so the body can focus on fast action.


The PSNS and SNS both send signals to many organs within the body, (as shown in the diagram).




The aim of learning the breathing techniques below is to predominantly facilitate the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system's influence over the heart, lungs, intestines and stomach.


"During every 40-FY class, we will spend time just breathing.

This will support mental and physical wellbeing; equipping participants with strategies to support their endocrine system, brain function, nervous system, pelvic floor function and weight management."



Re-learning to breathe can help you deal with some of the issues that the menopause will throw at you, such as;

  • Insomnia - By activating your parasympathetic nervous system throughout the day and using patterned breathing, you can ensure you get to sleep and stay asleep, ensuring restorative and restful sleep and greater energy levels the following day.

  • Pelvic floor issues - Breathing using your diaphragm strengthens your deepest pelvic floor muscles. Learning the relationship between the movement of the diaphragm and that of the pelvic floor can help build awareness and co-ordination, reducing the incidence of urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor health dysfunctions.

  • Hot flushes - Deep breathing can reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flushes.

  • Weight gain - Better digestion, promoted by increased oxygenation and the movement of the diaphragm, which encourages peristalsis, can go a long way to combatting weight gain, but by getting better quality sleep, you will also be less inclined to reach for those sugary snacks the following day.

Deep breathing also promotes a host of other physical, mental and emotional benefits. Breathing exercises will help to strengthen your lungs, improve your immune system, and decrease your heart rate.


Long, deep breaths can also manage our stress responses to help decrease anxiety, fear, racing thoughts and mood swings.

These responses can directly impact our physical, mental and emotional health, and longevity.


Diaphragmatic Breathing

The most basic type of diaphragmatic breathing is done by inhaling through your nose and breathing out through your mouth.

Here’s the basic procedure for diaphragmatic breathing. It may be easiest to practice while lying on the floor when you first start.

  • Sit or lie down on a comfortable, flat surface.

  • Relax your shoulders, shifting them downward away from the ears.

  • Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.

  • Without straining or pushing, breathe in through your nose until you can’t take in anymore air.

  • Feel the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, expanding your stomach and sides of the waist. Your chest remains relatively still.

  • Purse your lips as if sipping through a straw. Exhale slowly through the lips for 4 seconds and feel the stomach gently contracting.

Repeat these steps several times for best results.


Rib-stretch Breathing

The rib stretch is another helpful deep breathing exercise to help you expand your breath into your rib cage. Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand or sit upright.

  • Cross your arms over your chest and place your palms on either side of your rib cage.

  • Without straining or pushing, breathe in through your nose until you can’t take in anymore air.

  • Feel your ribs expand into your hands as you do so.

  • Hold your breath for 5 to 10 seconds.

  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth. You can do this normally or with pursed lips.


The Complete Breath

This is designed to fill all three chambers of the lungs to facilitate deep oxygenation and remove toxicity from the blood. It eliminates shallow chest breathing and cultivates a deeper and longer breathing pattern which can aid in digestion, circulation and stress relief.

Although this is also known as a three-part-breath, the inhalation and exhalation should be practiced as one continuous and uniform complete breath.

Here's how:

  • Place both palms on the abdomen with fingers pointing toward the navel. Steadily through the nostrils, slowly take a deep breath in, beginning to fill the abdomen with air. The abdomen should inflate like a balloon.

  • As you move your palms up to the rib cage, begin to fill the middle chest, expanding the rib cage or thoracic region.

  • Then place the palms onto the upper chest, filling the chest, expanding the clavicle region, and lifting the collar bones. The lower part of the abdomen should be slightly drawn in, when the chest is full.

  • Retain the breath a few seconds if possible.

  • Slowly exhale through the nostrils, placing the open palms from the chest down to the torso, then down to the abdomen, exhaling each section in one slow continuous movement. The abdomen should slightly draw in, lifting upward as you exhale.

  • Once you have fully exhaled, suspend or pause the breath for a few seconds before beginning the next inhalation.

Repeat 9 times.


Alternate nostril breathing

This is a profound cleansing and balancing breath that brings homeostasis to the nervous system. It is best to practice this in the morning after you wake up to bring balance to your day. This breath technique can also be helpful to perform before meditation.


For this practice, you will require the right hand only:

  • Place your left hand down onto your left knee or along side of the body in a comfortable resting position.

  • On the right hand, bend the index finger and middle finger down towards your palm

  • Exhale through both nostrils

  • Close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale slowly through the left nostril

  • Close the left nostril with your ring and little finger, and exhale slowly through the right nostril

  • Slowly inhale through the right nostril, close the right nostril and exhale slowly through the left nostril

This is considered one round. Repeat 9 rounds.

Ensure that the in-breath and out-breath are equal in ratio


40-FY

A 40 minute Low Impact Functional Resistance Training class

Designed especially for women, 40-FY will strengthen and mobilise the whole body, and improve the function of the muscular, skeletal, endocrine, brain/neurological and cardiovascular systems.

For more details, get in touch





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