Breathing Exercises for Lymphedema

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Breathing Exercises for Lymphedema

Postby patoco » Sun Jul 02, 2006 8:47 am

Breathing Exercises for Lymphedema

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There are many old ideas, myths and preconceptions that are presently
undergoing increased scrutiny and revision in the lymphedema world. One of these myths is that exercise can be bad for those with lymphedema. New clinical data is bringing out new evidence that quite the contrary exercise is good for lymphedema and leads to an overall higher quality of life and of health in general.

The exercises presented in this section include many that I have either done in the past, still do or (if I just had more time) would like to incorporate into my personal exercise regime. These are also exercises that from my personal knowledge of and experience with lymphedema should be safe and helpful.

Important Note: Before initiating any exercise program or regime, it is important that you get the advise of your personal physician to make sure the exercise is safe for you personally. Do not start any program without the ok of your doctor.

:wink: :lol:

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Breathing Exercises

By Dennis Lewis

Deep breathing is important from the standpoint of both health and spiritual development. Deep breathing increases our vitality and promotes relaxation. Unfortunately, when we try to take a so-called deep breath, most of us do the exact opposite: we suck in our bellies and raise our shoulders. This is shallow breathing. To learn deep breathing we need to do far more than learn new breathing exercises. Before deep breathing exercises can be of any lasting value, we need to experience and understand through the direct inner sensation of our own bodies the function of the chest and diaphragm in breathing, as well as the function of the belly, lower ribs, and lower back. We also need to observe how unnecessary tension in our muscles impedes our breathing.

The Mechanics of Deep Breathing

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped structure that not only assists in breathing, but also acts as a natural partition between our heart and lungs on the one hand, and all of the other internal organs on the other. The top of the diaphragm, located about one and one-half inches up from the bottom of the sternum, actually supports the heart, while the bottom of the diaphragm is attached all the way around our lower ribs and connects also to our lower lumbar vertebrae. When we breathe, the surface of our diaphragm generally moves downward as we inhale and upward as we exhale. (See if you can sense these movements periodically throughout your day.) When we breathe fully and deeply, the diaphragm moves farther down into the abdomen, and our lungs are able to expand more completely into the chest cavity. This means that more oxygen is taken in and more carbon dioxide is released with each breath. Deep breathing takes advantage of the fact that the lungs are larger toward the bottom than the top.

The Impact of Deep Breathing on Our Health

Deep breathing can have a powerful influence on our health. To understand how this is possible, we need to remember that the diaphragm is attached all around the lower ribcage and has strands going down to the lumbar vertebrae. When our breathing is full and deep, the diaphragm moves through its entire range downward to massage the liver, stomach, and other organs and tissues below it, and upward to massage the heart. When our breathing is full and deep, the belly, lower ribcage, and lower back all expand on inhalation, thus drawing the diaphragm down deeper into the abdomen, and retract on exhalation, allowing the diaphragm to move fully upward toward the heart.

In deep, abdominal breathing, the downward and upward movements of the diaphragm, combined with the outward and inward movements of the belly, ribcage, and lower back, help to massage and detoxify our inner organs, promote blood flow and peristalsis, and pump the lymph more efficiently through our lymphatic system. The lymphatic system, which is an important part of our immune system, has no pump other than muscular movements, including the movements of breathing.

Deep Breathing for Relaxation

Many of us breathe too fast for the conditions in which we find ourselves, that is, we actually hyperventilate. This fast, shallow breathing expels carbon dioxide too quickly and has many bad effects on our physical and emotional health. When our breathing is deep, however--when it involves in an appropriate way not only the respiratory muscles of the chest but also the belly, lower ribcage, and lower back--our breathing slows down. This slower, deeper breathing, combined with the rhythmical pumping of our diaphragm, abdomen, and belly, helps turn on our parasympathetic nervous system--our "relaxation response." Such breathing helps to harmonize our nervous system and reduce the amount of stress in our lives. And this, of course, has a positive impact on our overall health.
Breathing Exercises Can Be Harmful to Your Health.

Everyday we see more and more books being published outlining various advanced yoga breathing exercises. But until we learn how to integrate natural breathing into our lives, many of these advanced yoga breathing exercises (pranayama) can be harmful to our physical and psychological health. (Such exercises include alternate nostril breathing, reverse breathing, and breath retention.) The key to deep breathing is to begin to learn to sense unnecessary tension in our bodies and to learn how to release this tension. This requires great inner attention and awareness. It requires learning the art of self-sensing and self-observation. A beneficial work with deep breathing begins with increasing our internal awareness. Without sufficient awareness, without great sensitivity to what is happening inside our bodies, any efforts to change our breathing will at best have no effect whatsoever (we'll quickly stop our breathing exercises), and at worst will create more tension and stress in our lives and thus undermine our health and well-being even further. For an example of how it is possible to begin working in a healthy way with your breath, you can try this simple transformative breathing meditation.



by Marianne Ross, Ph.D.

A few nice deep breaths can be so relaxing. It can be a quick and easy stress reliever. You can do this anytime. You can do this anywhere. It is not visible to others.

And the good news can be that because you are less stressed, you will handle things more easily.

Word has it that when people are stressed, they tend to take short little breaths rather than deep, relaxing ones. Is this true for you? Check it out.

Quick and Easy Stress Management Breathing Exercise:

·Sit down or lie down.
·Inhale slowly and say to yourself I am...
·Exhale slowly and say to yourself relaxed.

Breathing is not something you DO. Rather it is something which you ALLOW. (p.26) The problem is that we don't allow our breathing to occur smoothly and naturally.

For those who are a bit more ambitious, here is a way to experience more about breathing.

Experiencing a Full Breath While it is not possible or necessary to fully expand the lungs with every breath, it is vital in heightening awareness to experience how a really complete breath feels. Used periodically, this exercise utilizes the lungs to capacity, and extracts great amounts of "life force" from the air.

Directions: Try this exercise sitting, standing and lying down.

1. Exhale deeply, contracting the belly.
2. Inhale slowly as you expand the abdomen.
3. Continue inhaling as you expand the chest.
4. Continue inhaling as you raise the shoulders up towards your ears.
5. Hold for a few comfortable seconds
6. Exhale in reverse pattern, slowly. Release shoulders, relax chest, contract the belly.
7. Repeat.

This exercise will require gentle practice in order that inhalation and exhalation be smooth and balanced. Beginners should only do it 2 or 3 times continuously.
From: The Wellness Workbook. Travis, MD & Ryan; Ten Speed Press, 1988 ... reath.html



Breathing Awareness and Deep Breathing

1. Lie down or sit in a comfortable chair, maintaining good posture. Your body should be as relaxed as possible. Close your eyes. Scan your body for tension.
2. Pay attention to your breathing. Place one hand on the part of your chest or abdomen that seems to rise and fall the most with each breath. If this spot is in your chest you are not utilizing the lower part of your lungs.
3. Place both hands on your abdomen and follow your breathing, noticing how your abdomen rises and falls.
4. Breathe through your nose.
5. Notice if your chest is moving in harmony with your abdomen.
6. Now place one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest.
7. Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose into your abdomen. You should feel your abdomen rise with this inhalation and your chest should move only a little.
8. Exhale through your mouth, keeping your mouth, tongue, and jaw relaxed.
9. Relax as you focus on the sound and feeling of long, slow, deep breaths.

Complete Natural Breathing

1. Sit or stand with good posture.
2. Breathe through your nose.
3. Inhale, filling first the lower part of your lungs then the middle part, then the upper part.
4. Hold your breath for a few seconds.
5. Exhale slowly. Relax your abdomen and chest.

Practice these two exercises, in whatever combination feels best for you, for ten minutes, twice a day.

(Taken from Davis, Eshelman, and McKay; The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook, 2nd edition; New Harbringer Publications, 1982.)
©Academic Skills Center, Dartmouth College 2001 ... athing.doc
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Postby bygrace » Mon Jul 03, 2006 12:09 pm

Hi Pat,
This is a great reminder particularly for those of us with truncal LE!
In fact, I used it yesterday when I was out on a long dog walk with friends. I was getting some pain in my tummy area, and after a few deep breaths I felt much better and could finish the walk.
grace :lol:
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Breathing exercises

Postby patoco » Mon Jul 03, 2006 2:11 pm

Hey Grace

When I used to be a singer, we would practice diaphragmic breathing by talking while holding a lit match (LOL safely) in front of our mouth. The key was to be able to talk and not blow out the match...breath control. :P :D job is a great place to learning breathing techniques.....a few dozen times a day, I tell myself......"take a deep breath" :lol: :lol: :lol: :wink:

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Postby silkie » Tue Jul 04, 2006 3:41 am


I use my yoga breathing when doing massage, relaxation,

i find it helps me and has a lovely calming effect

also if i use my breathing technique i find i get less breathless

if that makes sense

Silks xxxxxxxx
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