Mindfulness and Deep Breathing

With Guest Writer, Christopher Miller, L.Ac.

By now, mindfulness is a mainstream word.  It is being practiced in businesses to increase productivity and in schools to improve learning, attendance, and attention.  In the healthcare field, conventional physicians cannot deny the benefit to their patients overall wellbeing. Last month a patient of mine told me that her Primary Care Physician recommended meditation to lower her high blood pressure.  She came to me to learn how.

Go to any newsstand and you will see a popular magazine with a cover story pointing to how mindfulness improves our lives.  Dr. Oz regularly speaks of it. Oprah has interviewed notable experts in mindfulness. Deepak Chopra, Echart Tolle, Thich Naht Hahn and many other people have dedicated their lives to bringing mindfulness practices to a wider audience.  My patient was excited to learn and wanted to follow her Physician’s recommendations, yet at the same time she was both overwhelmed and intimidated by the vastness of information out there.

In 2009, researchers at the University of Camerino in Italy linked one hour or diaphragmatic breathing (deep abdominal breathing) to improved recovery time, decreased stress hormones and and increased melatonin in athlete.  Mindfulness exercises appear to reduce the prevalence of PTSD and other anxiety disorders as well.  By incorporating breathing with various postures and stretching (Tai Chi, Yoga and Qigong, for instance) one’s quality of life can improve.  An article published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism points to regular deep breathing decreased the anxiety of people suffering from PTSD.

All the way back in 1991, the journal Physiology & Behavior published a study tracking biochemistry and how it was improved using regular meditative practices.  It found that after meditation, serum cortisol levels were significantly reduced, serum total protein levels significantly increased, and systolic pressure, diastolic pressure and pulse rate significantly reduced.  Vital capacity, tidal volume and maximal voluntary ventilation were significantly lowered after meditation than before. There were also significant decreases in reaction time after meditation practice by 22%. Meditation produces biochemical and physiological changes and reduces the reaction time.

There is a lot of information and techniques to try when learning mindfulness practices.  Downloading popular apps for your phone can help guide you. I know many who feel immediate affects.  As for my patient and her blood pressure, we decided that simply taking deep abdominal breaths daily for 10 minutes.  This along with acupuncture, and a diet focused on whole foods and moderate exercise, she has begun to stabilize both her systolic and diastolic values.  She feels less fatigued, more focused and generally happier. I asked her out of all of the changes she has implemented, which did she feel was the most effective.  Without pause, she said her mindful breathing. She states, “I can feel my blood pressure lowering with each exhale.” She can’t wait to return to her Physician to show them her progress.

Christopher Miller, L.Ac. holds a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches University. He maintains Acupuncture licenses in both Oregon and California and holds multiple certifications from the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the American Academy of Physical Oriental Medicine and the International Institute of Medical Qigong.