Health, Healing & Hummingbirds

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Meditation, relaxation and breathing exercises

For those times when we are overwhelmed by the severity of a symptom, or feeling very unable to cope with our limitations or all of the frustrations that come with being very ill,  meditation and relaxation and breathing exercises can help, to some extent. They can help you cope right away with an awful moment or hour or day (if you are well enough to do them), and even improve your ability to think clearly and be calmer generally, if you practice then often.

 

Not everyone with M.E. or other serious disease is well enough to handle each suggestion listed below, but I hope you’ll find at least one you can manage.

 


The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise by Andrew Weil MD (from the Mercola site. NOTE: Make sure the volume is turned DOWN if you click on this link!)

 

The key to this exercise is to remember the numbers 4, 7 and 8. It’s not important to focus on how much time you spend in each phase of the breathing activity, but rather that you get the ratio correct.

Here’s how it’s done:

 

Sit up straight

Place the tip of your tongue up against the back of your front teeth. Keep it there through the entire breathing process

Breathe in silently through your nose to the count of four

Hold your breath to the count of seven

Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight, making an audible “woosh” sound

That completes one full breath. Repeat the cycle another three times, for a total of four breaths

 

You can do this exercise as frequently as you want throughout the day, but it’s recommended you don’t do more than four full breaths during the first month or so of practice. Later you may work your way up to eight full breath cycles at a time.

 

The benefits of this simple practice are enormous and work as a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system.

 

Personally, I think one of its greatest values may be gained when you combine it with your meals. Most of us eat three meals a day, so it makes remembering to do it easier. Also, I believe that combining it with the attitude of gratitude for the healthy meal you just ate, or are about to eat, can have a powerful, beneficial influence on your health.

 


Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing by Mercola

This method is simply a deepening of the breath. Take slow, deep, rhythmic breaths through the nose. When the diaphragm drops down, the abdomen is expanded allowing the air to rush into the vacuum created in the lungs.

Then the chest cavity is expanded, allowing the lungs to fill completely. This is followed by a slow, even exhalation which empties the lungs completely. This simple breath practice done slowly and fully, with intention, concentration and relaxation activates all of the primary benefits of therapeutic breath practice. In Qigong and Pranayama the breath is retained for additional benefit. Application Suggestions:

Health maintenance: 6 to 10 repetitions, 2 to 3 sessions per day.

Health enhancement: 6 to 10 repetitions, 4 to 6 sessions per day.

Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 15 to 20 repetitions, in 10 to 15 sessions per day. Getting started: 2 to 3 repetitions, once or twice per day. Remember to keep it easy and fun.

 


Alternate Nostril Breathing

Using your thumb on your right nostril and your pinky and third finger (the finger right next to your pinky finger), hold your right nostril closed and inhale up your left nostril. Pause, and while your lungs are full of air, switch your fingers so that your left nostril is closed. Then exhale out your right nostril. Then inhale up your right nostril, pause, and again while your lungs are full of air, switch your fingers so that your right nostril is closed. Exhale. Repeat this process about 12 times. This breath is often done in preparation for deep relaxation or meditation.

You will notice that usually one or the other of the nostrils is more open. If you breath on a small hand mirror, the patch of mist from one nostril will be larger than from the other.

The ancient practitioners of Yoga in India were aware of the significance of this and employed this knowledge to enhance health and consciousness. Western science did not notice this phenomena until the 1800's.  It has been found recently, through the application of current neuroscience, that the practice of alternate nostril breathing helps to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.  Applications Suggestions:

Health maintenance: 10 to 12 repetitions, 2 to 3 sessions per day.

Health enhancement: 10 to 12 repetitions, 4 to 6 sessions per day.

Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 15 to 20 repetitions, 8 to 10 sessions per day or up to even 100 repetitions in a single session.

Getting started: 10 to 12 repetitions, once or twice per day. Notice that this method is very quieting.

 


The relaxation response

This is another extremely simple method that initiates the relaxation response. Begin by taking slow deep breaths. Repeat these messages to yourself.

"My hands and arms are heavy and warm" (5 times).

"My feet and legs are heavy and warm" (5 times).

"My abdomen is warm and comfortable" (5 times).

"My breathing is deep and even" (10 times).

"My heartbeat is calm and regular" (10 times). "My forehead is cool" (5 times).

"When I open my eyes, I will remain relaxed and refreshed" (3 times).

 


Application Suggestions:

Health maintenance: 2 to 3 sessions per day.

Health enhancement: 6 to 10 sessions per day.

Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 10 to 15 sessions per day. Until you are well you have time to do this.

Getting started: 2 to 3 sessions per day.

 


Meditation guide for peace of mind from Free Meditations

 


Meditation handbook

 


Happy for No Good Reason by Swami Shankarananda. A book on meditation which comes with a CD.

 


The Relaxation Response

‘The Relaxation Response’ is the name of a book published by Dr Herbert Benson of Harvard University in 1968. In a series of experiments into various popular meditation techniques, Dr Benson established that these techniques had a very real effect on reducing stress and controlling the fight-or-flight response. Direct effects included deep relaxation, slowed heartbeat and breathing, reduced oxygen consumption and increased skin resistance. This is something that you can do for yourself by following these steps:

Sit quietly and comfortably.

Close your eyes.

Start by relaxing the muscles of your feet and work up your body relaxing muscles.

Focus your attention on your breathing.

Breathe in deeply and then let your breath out. Count your breaths, and say the number of the breath as you let it out (this gives you something to do with your mind, helping you to avoid distraction).

Do this for ten or twenty minutes.

 


Download/listen to free relaxation and meditation audio files from healthylifestyle.com. Includes links to peaceful music, relaxation and meditation and guided imagery audio files. This page also has similar links.

 


Go to YouTube or Google to search for many more free relaxation and mediation techniques. Or you may want to see if you can borrow mediation CDs from friends or family or from the library. Some of the relaxation promoting Hemisync CDs may be useful for M.E. patients, and others, just make sure they aren’t the type aimed at ‘increasing energy’ etc. or else they will make you more ill.

 

 

If you’re not up to listening to a guided meditation, you can mediate by just trying to live in the moment. Let all thoughts come and go, without paying much attention to them. Look that the things around you, really look at them one at a time; describe in your mind exactly what you are seeing. Describe the colours, shapes and textures without making any sort of judgements about them. If you are able to, you may want to do this exercise outside, looking at the garden.

 

You can also listen to very peaceful music such as Mozart, or some of the more mellow World music, and concentrate on just listening to the music. Let all thoughts come and go, without paying much attention to them.

 

You may find, as many M.E. patients do, that spending all your time in a very messy and cluttered room full of bright colours and lots to look at makes it much harder to relax. Post-illness you may need to focus on making the room you spend most of your time in very peaceful by making things orderly, and removing clutter and non-restful colours etc. You may find that as your health improves, however, that you are able to cope with being in rooms which have more going on visually, without feeling more ill.