Breathing Techniques for a Balanced Lifestyle

Natural practitoners use breathwork as the foundation of health

| September/October 2000

As the acupuncturist removed the needles from various points in my hands, ears, and feet, she told me about an exercise I should try for the next few weeks, until my next ­appointment.

“Paint one of your thumbnails blue,” she said. “And every time you notice your blue nail, take a long, slow breath in through your nose and a long, slow exhale through your mouth.”

At the time, I found the suggestion to be a bit unusual, to say the least. But over the course of the next few years, I learned that breathwork is an important tool in many healing modalities, from massage to yoga to natural childbirth. Practitioners use breath to help their patients relax their bodies and calm their minds, as well as for specific ailments such as fatigue. According to Andrew Weil, M.D., in his book Natural Health, Natural Medicine (Houghton Mifflin, 1995), “Breath is the master key to health and wellness, a function we can learn to regulate and develop in order to improve our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.”

Breathwork & Traditional Chinese Medicine

Lesley Tierra, a Santa Cruz, California-based acupuncturist and the author of The Herbs of Life (The Crossing, 1992), says that breathwork is an important aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

“I think breathwork has a very powerful overall effect,” Tierra says. “It helps you to change your focus and can calm your mind. The breath itself and breathing exercises are vital. In TCM, the lungs give strength to the whole body and improve immunity. The lungs and large intestine are organ pairings in TCM, and so breathwork may also help balance elimination.”

Tierra says she often recommends breathing exercises to her acupunc­­ture patients because they can be useful for a wide range of conditions.

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