Are you ready to pop a pill whenever you are plagued by minor headaches, backaches, or whatever is ailing you at the moment? For many people, taking a pain medication is their first reaction to discomfort. However, what if I could prove to you that taking a breath diaphragmatically could do more for your pain than ibuprofen or acetaminophen?
Some years ago I was driving through a treacherous snowstorm with my two small boys in the backseat. It was late at night. Under normal condition, it would have been a 2-hour drive, but with the squalls and the 18-wheelers continually passing me and throwing their muck onto my windshield, I knew I was in for a drive lasting quite a bit longer than 120 minutes. I could feel the tension in my lower back and I knew that I would not be able to handle the drive with back pain. So I did something that most people are unaware of. I started breathing.
For about 20 seconds, I consciously inhaled, held my breath for a few seconds and then exhaled. I did this 3 times and the backache was gone.
I am confident that at this point you are questioning my sanity. But I will tell you in all seriousness that not only have I experienced the ability to eliminate minor pain by breathing but so have many of my clients. In fact, when one man concentrates on his breathing while on his exercise bike in the morning, he lowers his blood pressure!
I breathe (and have been for more than 30 years) with the support of my diaphragm daily. I don’t think about; I just do it. In the instance of the backache, however, I consciously breathed so that my body would relax. This relaxation is what ‘allowed’ my body to rid itself of the discomfort. What was causing the backache was stress caused by external factors.
There is no doubt that stress causes us a lot of needless discomfort and minor pain. When you can eliminate the stress, you eliminate the pain.
So how does breathing with the support of your diaphragm accomplish this feat? Deep, supported breathing rids your body of nasty toxins that shallow or lazy breathing cannot. In fact, shallow or lazy breathing, which is typical of the majority of the population, actually exaggerates your stress because the toxins are not being eliminated thereby they feed on your stress – they accentuate your stress – they increase your stress.
As a voice coach, I teach people how to improve the sound of their speaking voice by means of breathing with this support and allowing the chest to become their primary amplifier or sounding board. But, in truth, the most important thing my clients learn is to make diaphragmatic breathing a habit. It improves their life in ways they could never imagine!