Mark B Anstendig
The almost universally recommended suggestion to take a deep breath when someone is in physical or mental stress is not the most effective or logically correct advice. The more correct, more effective thing to do, at least for an otherwise correctly functioning body, would be just the opposite, namely to either breathe out and stop the breath, or to simply stop the breath at the end of an out-breath cycle and wait, without further breathing. That is an infinitely more effective process than taking a deep breath or deep breathing.
The body is a machine (see The Body as Machine, http://anstendig.org/revised_body.htm). True, all physical stresses are attached to and work themselves out primarily through the breathing mechanism. But not through filling up the lungs with air.
In a moment of trauma, the physical patterns of the trauma the body goes through imprint themselves on the body and become a part of the habits of movement and experience of that body. The body cannot return to anything resembling normal until those patterns are neutralized and eventually eliminated. And the quickest way to rid the body of unwanted and unnecessary patterns of activity/behavior is to stop all movement, especially that of the breathing mechanism/lung system, and change the speed of the breathing in relation to all activities, usually slowing it and also smoothing it. That will much more effectively calm the body than deep breathing. Also, any necessary healing of physical wounds and other physical trauma takes place more readily and more quickly, the more quickly one rids the body of the patterns it absorbed at the moment of the wound/trauma.
Also, the body tends to emphasize the breathing-in cycle of the breath, to the detriment of emptying the lung. In most people, the lungs tend to fill up unnecessarily with air and never empty themselves. But it is in the emptying of the lung of air that the beneficial aspects of breathing mostly reside, and not in the filling up of the lung with air. Definitely not. In fact, in age-old disciplines of developing the lung and improving the body-as-machine, the strongest, most beneficial effects lie in the compressing of the lung by forcing the air out of it, and by limiting the tendency of the lung to want to fill up. Any relief experienced by taking a deep breath is fleeting and impermanent, if there even was any relief. And there are just as many, if not even more people for whom deep breathing is not effective and has no lasting effect. One simply does not hear much from the people whom it did not help much or did not help at all. They think it was something wrong with them and not with the process.
If, in any stressful situation, one empties the lung and apparently stops breathing for a while, some very important and powerful things will happen automatically:
1) first of all, if one remains in the state (sensation) of breathing out or of the breath being stopped at the end of the out-breath, the breath will not remain stopped. After a moment, it will continue breathing in and out, just much more slowly, almost imperceptibly, and apparently in the back of the throat and head cavity. This reality of the lung is best practiced a bit in times of non-trauma or stress, in which case one will be able to do it more effectively when necessary.
2) In that state of stopped breath, in which the breathing slows itself down, attached patterns of the body, which were absorbed during the stress that caused the trauma, will much more quickly separate themselves from the body’s central pattern structure than if one breathes in, especially if one breathes in deeply, as one is usually instructed.
This reality of the breath/lung mechanism also applies to other situations of stress. One such situation is childbirth, where Lamaze techniques of deep breathing and taking a deep breath are as ignorant and wrong as those of the above trauma situations.
To summarize this very important misunderstanding of how the human body really works: the use of deep breathing and/or taking deep breaths in order to ameliorate trauma and stressful situations, while sometimes providing apparent immediate relief, just as often does not. Recommending deep breathing is the result of ignorance of how the breathing mechanism works within the reality of actual usage at practical levels of awareness within which the mind can be conscious of the breath and able to control it. Using deep breathing demonstrates lack of understanding of how the breathing mechanism is designed to function, especially of the ways that the conscious mind inside a body can perceive and manipulate the breathing, and of what kind of effects conscious interference with the breathing can have.
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