Breathing techniques? you ask. I know. Sounds nuts. Isn’t it just breathing in and breathing out. Simple.
No. Not simple. Did you know 80-90% of the population are ‘mouth breathers’ and thereby breathing the wrong way? It should actually be in through the nose and out through the mouth. The link below will explain this.
People will learn some specific things they can do to help breathing, it won’t change their lung function, but it is designed to help them cope and make the best of it.
I saw a great story on the internet:
Emil Olson,a 62-year-old from Sweet Ridge, Colo., went through pulmonary rehab to build up strength for a lung replacement surgery. With only about 10% of his lung functioning, he went through rehab for three months in order to walk six minutes on a treadmill (a requirement for the transplant).
Aside from walking on the treadmill, Olson exercised on a stationary bike. He used light weights to build his upper back muscles, which helps with breathing. Therapists taught him how to eat right and offered tips like not bending over when lifting objects to keep from compressing the lungs.
“I don’t think anyone expected me to stay alive long enough to get a transplant, but I did,” he says. “It’s amazing how much good you get out of 30 to 45 minutes of really limited exercise.”
From my own personal experience, it had been extremely debilitating to have a progressive disease that prevented me from doing what I used to be able to do. I was a very active individual and kept myself healthy with a balanced diet and very regular exercise, going to the gym 4 or 5 times a week, doing dance classes and always on the go.
That all changed when the attacks starting coming and my lung capacity was getting less and less. Now I can only go to the gym twice a week but only do VERY light exercise. Sometimes I just have no energy to do anything and can get tired very easily. COPD sufferers are also very prone to infections and illnesses.
The thing is, with COPD, it’s a vicious cycle (as the image indicates), because you start to get anxiety and avoid doing anything that will get you breathless (even cleaning the house for example, or walking up a set of stairs). It’s a HORRID feeling and the best way to describe it is like constantly breathing through a straw.
But to overcome those feelings, to keep the body strong and healthy, exercise is still crucial. In my situation, I adapted and learned to do a lot more ‘at-home’ exercises and went outside into the fresh air for 20-30 minute walks instead of the gym. If I don’t, I will feel like I’m just withering away and let the disease control me. You can change that. If you want to feel in control, be able to still tackle things, do things and keep going, breathing properly for mental peace, gratitude and a positive mindset is key.
In that respect, I gravitated towards yoga, pilates and tai chi type movements, that still kept my body (and mind) supple, strong, toned, healthy and the added benefit of mental reassurance. I don’t do this every day, but I try to at least do it 3-4 times a week, though walking every day outside is a must for me (even if it’s 10 minutes). This type of exercise is slow, controlled movements meaning it’s not vigorous exercise where you get exhaustion or breathlessness. There’s also the notion of channeling energy in the right ways, thereby improving breathing, positivity and eliminating negative energy. But that’s for another post 🙂
Guilt is a useless emotion too, so I don’t kick myself if I can’t move. Remember COPD is an actual scientific, physical disease. It’s not a cop-out excuse, it’s not ‘playing the victim’ card, it’s a very real, serious disease and can be very hard to even get out of bed or walk up the stairs sometimes. If I feel like I haven’t done enough, I just promise myself I’ll do it the next day and stick to it so that I don’t disappoint myself the next time.
To manage the breathing part whether you are stationary or exercising, I highly recommend:
I’ve yet to try Buteyko breathing method, but is definitely something I am thinking about.
And to go a step further, ensure your doctor refers you to Pulmonary rehabilitation, keep track of your peak flow rate, potentially a diary to see if your condition changes in reaction to certain things e.g. lack of sleep, certain type of food etc.
Overall, I’d like to think my improvement is not just down to technology and purifiers, but I’ve taught my body and its muscle memory to breathe the correct way and exercise in a way that suits me.
Adapting your lifestyle can be hard to begin with, but taking the time to breath properly and practice it every day will make it easier in the long-run. And trust me- you’ll notice the benefits.