Take a deep breath
Good breathing is foundational to good health. When the air is polluted with dust or toxins or the lungs are constricted by illness or stress, the negative impacts on health are well known. Some people also suggest that breathing is a vital “link” between the conscious mind and subconscious body-brain. This is because, on the one hand, our breathing often functions automatically and outside of our awareness like our heart or kidneys; yet, on the other hand, if we want to, all of us can easily become consciously aware of and control our breathing, which can in turn have direct effects on many of those normally unconscious processes like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, detoxification, healing etc.
All of this may be part of why so many people in the lay withdrawal community report that becoming more aware of their breathing, or lightly controlling their breath in certain ways, can be helpful for creating a sense of calm and easing a wide variety of withdrawal symptoms.
It’s certainly the easiest coping technique to try out! Some people just sit in a comfortable chair or lie down and focus their attention on their breathing for a few minutes without trying to change it in any way, and find a deep sense of relaxation comes over them. Others find it more effective to learn a basic “complete breath” technique (ensuring they’re breathing naturally and easily from the abdomen, not just the chest) and then to employ a slow, meditative breath-counting technique (such as regulating how long their in-breaths and out-breaths are).
Note that controlled breathing, yogic pranayama, or “breathwork” is widely reported to be a very powerful tool – for example, certain breathing techniques have been used for centuries within various spiritual traditions for meditation or to induce non-ordinary states of consciousness. So if you’re feeling drawn towards very deep breathing, or rapid breathing, or extended periods of controlled breathing, it might be best to learn about their possible effects ahead of time and practice them at first with an experienced instructor or practitioner who is aware of your situation.
Where can I find more information?
- Many yoga websites and books have basic instructions for the most popular breathing techniques – though most advise learning them directly from a qualified teacher.
- Yoga International has an article introducing the practice of “breath awareness”.
- DoYogaWithMe.com has a number of free “Pranayama Yoga” instructional videos for beginners.
- The “4-7-8” count is a breath-control technique that many in the withdrawal community report as helpful – though some report holding the breath to be difficult or anxiety-inducing. Andrew Weil explains this technique in a short video.
- An Alternate Nostril Breathing instructional video.
- A diaphragmatic breathing instructional video.