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Breathing habits are related to physical and mental health (wsj.com)
571 points by SirLJ 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 281 comments

For me, lifting heavy weights three days a week fixed my posture, heart rate, and breathing issues. Back exercises like deadlifts and barbell rows were especially helpful for countering the tendency to hunch forward due to computer use. The endorphin release is also a great mood booster.

I say this because it makes me wonder about the causality. I’m not convinced breathing exercises by themselves do much good for physical health, but rather that good breathing habits are a consequence of overall good health.

Your intuition isn't bad but there is an emerging space of research amongst biomechanics and physiotherapists about how breathing is coupled to the nervous system.

You could argue that maybe anything that raises your breathing rate through exercise forcibly achieves the effect of getting those nerves firing but you also encounter breathing exercises as a therapy in quite a few avenues: yoga, wim hof, tantra, pilates, meditation, tai chi (to name a few)

There's probably some shared roots between some of the listed roots but I find it curious that the act of conscious breathing is encountered in so many different places and is now becoming a little more mainstream through mindfulness

A note that wim hof is actually an adaptation of a buddhist practice. Pilates is also a crossover between gym and yoga in the early 20th century.

Mindfulness is also a central tenet in buddhism and yoga.

For at least two thousand years buddhism and yoga had this cross pollination when it came to breathing techniques, mindfulness and meditation.

Oh yeah for sure. I guess the interesting thing for me is the resurgence or staying power of this practice is at least an indication of there being something there

Absolutely, I have studied this field for a while now and in some regards there are very modern aspects to it. The inquisitive and critical aspect of these philosophies kept it dynamic and weeded out practices that weren’t as effective.

Even in the 15th / 16th century there was a warning to stay away from fake gurus.

Shaolin legend has it it was a yogi Bodhidharma that revived the physical practice after the fitness of the residents was declining.

I say this in the sense that there was a lot of cross pollination going on, and archiving a lot of practices from eachother.

I'm in complete agreement with respect to the benefits for CNS stimulation. I have no doubt there are other ways to achieve it than lifting heavy weights, just that that method has been particularly helpful for me. I recall seeing some research a while back that the neural stimulation of lifting actually improves brain health. Naively that seems weird, but once you learn a bit about how motor units are recruited it starts to make sense. My knowledge of biology is at the undergraduate level, but my intuition and personal experience both say that there are no truly discrete systems in the body. They all affect each other to some degree, just some more than others. Given that, the idea that breathing exercises could cause positive adaptions in the CNS is something I'd expect. Where I'm ignorant is what the magnitude of those adaptions is given what appears to be a relatively mild training stimulus. My guess is that advanced efficacious breathing techniques must be far from mild, but I freely admit my ignorance since I've never done anything past the silicon valley corporate mindfulness workshop.

Controlled breathing is essential during strength training

A lot of people here advocating for strength training, but aren't mentioning the caveat: potential for injury. I used to spend 6 days a week doing a mixture of HIIT and strength training. Despite my best attempts, there were occasional lapses in form, and I found that I was developing joint pains, and indeed a few injuries.

Controlled breathing, as mentioned, is central to the wim hof method, the yogic practice of pranayama, and to many kinds of martial arts and meditation, and doesn't really have the potential for injury (with the exclusion of the more physically demanding martial arts). Some of those practices are also more accessible to people with mobility issues.

My personal experience with yoga and meditation, is a very significant uplift in mood, and better sleep (I used to have a very bad snoring problem). I also do a mix of weighted exercise, callisthenics, and cardio, and I've found the combination to work very well.

Here’s one caveat for you specifically: don’t train six days a week.

That's kinda straw-manning my point :) But to clarify, I wasn't strictly doing heavy weight for each of those days, and yes I could have taken it easier.

That's not really straw-manning when exercise-induced injury is the main point you are trying to make.

6 days a week of HIIT training, without enough time for your body to recover is a recipe for injury. Of course, this can vary from person to person and the intensity of the workout and the level of your experience and form - but these are things you didn't mention.

Point taken. To clarify, it wasn't always 6 days a week, that was an over-exaggeration by me. An average was maybe ~4.5 days a week, and some days were much lighter than others. I was maybe trying to communicate that I've invested in this kind of regime, and it's derailed the conversation away from the point I was trying to make.

HIIT is very specific, you’re talking bout going past your lactic acid threshold, they are very hard to recover from. So much so that it will stop you from other exercise. You wouldn’t even be thinking about lifting weights.

This would of course lead to injury. I don’t think anyone wants to squat heavy after sprinting.

Weightlifting is pretty safe when done right. Just make sure you have plenty of rest. At the same time, unrelated, but the posture benefits are way overrated. In fact, it’s gonna lead to bad posture over time unless you couple it with yoga or some sort of corrective stretching.

> This would of course lead to injury. I don’t think anyone wants to squat heavy after sprinting.

That's a fair call. Heavy weight training was usually on separate days, but I recall some crossfit WODs would include deadlifts alongside other fast-paced exercises, and now I question the safety of that. Those deadlifts were likely low weight, high-rep though.

You wouldn’t be developing joint pain if you took a couple days to rest and recover. That’ why your caveat is a non issue.

Regarding strength training and injury you have a point: if you are a beginner avoid anything with a powerlifting bias (i.e. adding weight is the main objective). Stronglifts, r/fitness, ... Also bench press will not do much for posture.

Bodyweight training/calisthenics is interesting but is lacking on two of the best exercises for posture: Face pulls and (Romanian) Deadlifts. For Deadlifts light to moderate weight is enough, with perfect form, be careful if you have tight hamstring to work on mobility.

Just to clarify: I was training with a gym instructor friend and he was assessing my form and we were doing the whole gamut of exercises. We were doing heavy weight training 1-3 times a week (deadlifts, clean+jerk, strict press, amongst others) mixed up with other crossfit style routines (kettle bells, calisthenics, gymnastics, cardio).

Bodyweight stuff is what I mostly do now with some weighted exercises, but I'm keen to get into heavier weights again.

I have a big snoring problem. Did yoga help you with that?

From memory, I believe it did. But since then I've taken up meditation which has had a much larger impact on my life, and so it's hard to tease apart which helps what, and to what degree.

The technique I learnt was at a 10-day silent retreat, of which we spent the first days (9-hours a day) exclusively on concentrating on respiration. With this new awareness, I realised, just in my day to day, and especially when I'm trying to focus, I sometimes forget to breathe. This is something I otherwise would not have noticed and not corrected. Also important to note that I used to have mild sleep apnoea, and I would always wake up feeling groggy from lack of oxygen. I haven't had a sleep study since I've started practicing, but I no longer wake up groggy, and now I can go to sleep within the hour instead of tossing and turning half the night.

I've noticed that yoga and meditation have also improved my breathing and form during exercise.


Know someone who had this issue, turned out to be related to sleep apnea. Their life totally changed after it was diagnosed and a CPAP was used during sleep.

No. Loosing weight and fixing your TSH levels will..

I only had mild sleep apnoea (according to a sleep study). Meditation (maybe not yoga) did reduce symptoms for me, but there are many contributing factors, and for severe cases CPAP is often necessary. Based on my limited anecdata, I think meditation could help other reduce or manage their symptoms, and I strongly doubt it could be harmful.

Good point. Thinking about it, I achieved similar benefits from marathon running and at the time I now realise I was taking breathing quite seriously (understandably).

I actually find controlled breathing is very good for regulating pain.

As a beginner runner (2.15 half time) how can I use breathing effectively?

Kind of too long for an HN post but long distance running is all a game of efficiency. Good breathing makes sure your oxygen levels are working for you rather than against you. I remember subtle things like switching between calmer breathing to steady the heartrate and deeper faster breathing for getting over a hill. This all can happen naturally, but you'll be surprised the difference in doing the breathing mindfully/proactively rather than passively.

The breathing also helps mentally but also helps relax the body. As you are exerting yourself it can be a natural response to carry tension in your body. Tension is usually the enemy of body mechanics - it leads to inefficient technique.

Watch any sport (including running) and something notable about any pro is how easy or relaxed they look.

This can be learned and breathing has some chicken/egg relationship with relaxation

I'd say it's impossible to lift weights close to one's max, without controlling one's breath :- )

Meaning, one a bit learns to control the breath, without thinking about it, just doing?

Just from my own experience, I wonder if a lot of the benefit of such things is simply from habitually paying attention to your body, whether your lifting technique, or your breathing.

Lifting works faster. Trying to change your posture by noticing and correcting it is just brutally difficult. You need to mindfully check in multiple times an hour. Lifting you only need to attend to your posture while you’re doing it and your posture will improve without conscious effort as your tendons and sinews stretch and you get more muscle. Running or dancing will do the same thing but the returns on each hour of work are going to be lower than for lifting weights.

I'll add an endorsement for lifting, especially as part of cross-training for another sport to avoid injury.

I am also extremely partial to sprinting. The closest you can come without drugs to a certain type of very lean and muscular physique is to combine lifting and sprinting. Sprinting is great for your abdominals, quads, calves, so it can really balance out the bulky, top-heavy look that can come from only lifting.

Can you recommend a sprinting regimen?

I’ve been lifting weights for 15 odd years, and while I agree with you, it’s not always a magic bullet.

After a period of excessive work (slumping in a chair for 18 hours a day), combined with a sports injury, I ended up with a very messed up posture. Lifting weights actually exacerbated the issue, rather than fixing it.

Lifting is also one of the most efficient ways to stretch. The only thing to know is the you should always do the motion with a full range of motion (ROM). Full ROM is actually best for making muscle, but if you also do it with a your bodyweight on your back, it's practically THE perfect stretching exercise.

+1 to dead lifts... one of my favorite exercises. They are great, especially for most of us that stay in front of the computer most of the day, they are awesome and getting your body form back into the right shape.

Just be careful with form, and learn the technique well before increasing the weights, as they can be intense for your back.

Seriously don't try to go heavy on deadlifts until your form is 100%. It's a great exercise (possibly the best), but have someone to correct your form realtime, or lift light and film on your phone, check it, correct, lift again 'light' until it's on point. Get someone else who knows their stuff to form check it as well. Always better to lift light and correct rather than heavy and wrong.

I always thought there was an opening for an Xbox Kinect like solution to this problem, that analysed form and warned what was wrong, but I guess the liability for something like that is just too great.

And... read Rippetoe, I still think it's the best text any serious lifter should have read through at least once.

Athos gear (https://www.liveathos.com/) is able to do live form feedback.

Heavy weight training is the only thing that has ever 100% fixed me. Trying to get back into it right now.

I really miss lifting weights. Gyms have been closed for three months due to the pandemic, and I can feel my muscle mass evaporating. I can do some bodyweight exercises at home, but there's no room for weights in a tiny flat :-(.

I know bodyweight is no perfect substitute and you probably already know this, but you can still have progressions of bodyweight exercise variants in a way that mimics progressive overload of weight to some extent. Check out the infographic here - http://www.startbodyweight.com/2014/01/basic-routine-infogra... - 8 types of exercise with progressively tougher variants. If nothing else it helps keeps things interesting

Buy a pair of adjustible weight dumbbells. There's a wealth of workouts you can do with just those.

I keep them in a corner of my room. Takes up basically no space.

Problem is they're out of stock everyone since the pandemic.

When you are angry you breathe fast, when you’re relaxed you breathe slowly, you must have noticed that. Emotions affect breathing. The reverse is also true, if you control your breathing you can control your emotions/feelings and overall physical well being.

In India a whole branch of yoga called Svara Yoga has developed over thousands of years that examines deeply into the subtlety of breathing and its related affects [0].

0: https://www.vedicbooks.net/svara-yoga-p-15882.html (Disclaimer: I just found this book on Svara Yoga in english; I haven't read it myself.)

> I’m not convinced breathing exercises by themselves do much good for physical health, but rather that good breathing habits are a consequence of overall good health.

The causality is clear at this point. Breathing and focus exercises like meditation are deadlifts for your brain. Like most other organs, it adapts to various stimuli.

If you're not convinced that breathing can affect your physiology or your mental state, try hyperventilating for a few minutes. I strongly advise stopping before you pass out.

I've been doing breathing exercises regularly for the past 8 years. Complete game changer for emotional regulation. I've also organized and taught it in schools, prisons, offices, etc. on a volunteer basis.

I like it because it's not a logical activity. Nobody has to be convinced that it works or makes sense. If you breathe in a certain way, your feelings will change (or something noticeable will happen) whether you believe in it or not.

I'm happy it's becoming more mainstream. Even if you don't do it regularly, it's a good thing to learn.

I'd recommend starting with Alternate Nostril breathing and Bhastrika. Each exercise takes about 5 minutes each. For both exercises, try them with the eyes open until you can do it with eyes closed. Then follow the routine.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB) Routine: 2 minutes ANB. Rest* 1 minute. 2 minutes ANB. Benefits: Good for when you're feeling overwhelmed by tech or too many thoughts at Video example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VwufJrUhic (3:20 - 4:56) Notes: A lot of the videos I've found online have an awkward hand posture. I'm not sure it's necessary. The general idea is to close one nostril at a time and alternate breathing.

Bhastrika / Bellows breathing (BB) Benefits: Good for energy. Routine: 3 sets of 20 BB. Rest* 30 seconds between sets. Video example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DByVSR2fX0k&t=1s. Notes: It might look a little funny, but it's worth a try. If you can, I would recommend sitting in vajrasana (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajrasana_(yoga)). No worries if you can't sit like that.

Rest means sit with your eyes closed and breathe normally. Rest your hands on your lap palm facing up.

Bonus* Ujayyi Breathing (UJ) Benefits: Really nice and really subtle breathe you can do anywhere. This is actually a very useful breath to be aware of. Routine: 2 minutes UJ. Rest* 1 minute. 2 minutes UJ. Video example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwEdfOuhoY4 Notes: Foundational breath for yoga and pranayama (pranayama means breath control)

I personally do pranayama (3-stage pranayama w/ UJ breathing) with bhastrika and a kriya breathing exercise (SKY breathing) every morning. I also occasionally do alternate nostril breathing before meditation. This is something simpler, though, that I think anyone can try out and see if it works for them or not. There are also a lot of other good comments in this thread, but this is what I have personal experience with.

Not sure how ANB plays with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasal_cycle

It’s supposed to balance it out.

How are you able to breath in with your other nostril? Only one nostril works to breathe at a time for me.

Use a finger/thumb to close a nostril and then breath from the other. If you can't really breath with a nostril due to some physical issue that's a different thing.

For the people asking for a routine I would recommend “Light on Prãnãyãma: The Yogic Art of Breathing” by B. K. S. Iyengar. All the info you could ever want and more. I have had a regular pranayama practice for the past several years and this book really helps dial in the mechanics of it as well as some great history.

I dealt with serious anxiety in high school and accidentally learned that just forcing myself to breathe slower made everything much calmer.

No need to overthink any special technique. Just breathe slow, and try not to breathe too shallow. Do it as an exercise for a few minutes. Breathe with the stomach (not chest), like a baby would.

Exactly, you don’t need a whole book of techniques (I have been teaching yoga for a decade)

One book I particularly recommend is “the healing power of the breath” , the exercise is very simple, basically just establishing a rhythm that works for your body type, and then you are good to go.

Thats not to say there’s not value into the pranayamas (breathing exercises) of yoga, but for pure efficacy just establishing a good rhythm is actually easy to learn and use.

I've heard about people that basically do this constantly everyday essentially making their diaphragms stronger . I feel like I need to go to class to learn this . I just to the basics which is slow breathing through the nose and fill air specifically in the stomach region . Hold . Exhale through the mouth slowly . Repeat

what sort of exercises? is there a particular technique?

The most basic one I have seen everywhere, in different forms, is to

A)focus on the breath, or a part of the body affected by breath like your lips or chest or stomach B)diaphragmatic breathing in thru nose and out thru mouth C)inhale for x seconds, hold for x seconds, exhale for x seconds, hold for x seconds, repeat

And over time train x seconds to become longer and longer. You might start with 4 or 6 seconds at first.

I can heartily recommend the book “the healing power of breath” , easy technique (adapted from yoga) and no need to think about all sorts of steps, just the breath rhythm you need to “get” It also comes with audio tracks.

For a while I dove into this topic heavily and it seemed that most of the resources I’ve found were good and surprisingly similar as the sample size got larger. Initially I was pretty skeptical about some being less authentic but that mattered less as I’ve gone on. Sorry for avoiding the question, but I’d say doing some research will reveal its own path that will be somewhat personal and different than others’.

search for Pranayam, it is a very popular Indian technique and closely related to Yogic exercises as well

I've been worried in recent years about getting a big gut from diaphragmatic breathing. My BMI is low but when I breath that way (and when it feels best) my belly can really stick out. Do you have any opinion on this?

Don't worry. It's better to breathe correctly than hold tension in your abs all day.

Please share!

I am VERY interested in your techniques, and I'm sure many others will benefit directly from your wisdom if you choose to share it.

Do you have a video?

Can you share something about your technique?

As someone who has been teaching yoga for a decade, the only thing there is to “get” is finding the right rhythm for your body type (aka your lung capacity)

I can heartily recommend the book “the healing power of breath” , easy technique (adapted from yoga) and no need to think about all sorts of steps, just the breath rhythm you need to “get” It also comes with audio tracks.

Search for “pranayama” on YouTube etc. this is quite common for of exercise in in the Indian subcontinent but you might not be familiar if you are in the west or otherwise remote from the Indian/yoga culture


Also Look into the books or talks (on YouTube) by Dr. Chris Willard

I replied to my parent post with a simple routine.

Please share a routine!

I replied to my parent post with a simple routine. Hope it helps.

A while back someone on HN recommended Sivananda Yoga. The first part of it includes some breathing exercises. I was suffering from repeated flu-like symptoms, sinus, etc since the beginning of this year. I had some difficulty breathing and actually had to get tested for corona thrice since my symptoms were eerily similar. After I started doing these exercises, my sinus and other breathing difficulties have disappeared. The exercises seem to give me a boost of energy. I've been using them as a drug especially on the days I don't sleep well. I do them first thing in the morning. This is anecdotal and might not work for you. Thanks to the HNer that recommended it. It's been life changing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUKjuni-6l8 (the breathing exercises start at minute 9 and go up to minute 24 or so). I don't do the exercises that follow it nor listen to the chanting before it.

Love this - thank you for the share!

This is great. Thanks!

I've been overbreathing (essentially, chronic hyperventilation that you don't notice) ever since I had a bit of a health scare.

It's horrible.

Your CO2 levels drop, which inhibits your body's blood pH regulation. An increased blood pH leads to fuzzy thoughts, pinpricks all over your body, headaches, etc. Longer term, all kinds of aches start popping up. (Bloating, acid reflux, etc.)

It's difficult to fix something that you did unconsciously before. If anything, paying too much attention to your breathing works against you.

I have no real point here, except: breathing is important. And, if someone happens to read this and has some advice: let me know. :-)

Have you tried an incentive spirometer? They're about fifteen dollars on Amazon. I got one recently to track (what I assume is) my lung volume to use as a possible indicator of covid, but after reading the directions it seems like the device is purpose made for your problem.

You practice breathing with this thing 4 times a day, ten breaths a session, and track the volume of your inhalations. In order to get the number to go up you need to take long, deep, and slow breaths.

It will give you a clear numerical result to track. 4 sessions a day, 10 breaths each, record your measurements, plug them into Excel, get an average going and work on driving it up.

I also feel like there's potentially a market for a digital incentive spirometer that could help people do these things. Especially if problems like this are somewhat common.

I came to the conclusion that poor breathing habits are somehow connected to poor posture, mainly of the neck and the ribcage. I've had some poor breathing habits myself and doing deep breathing exercises incorrectly actually messed me up even worse for about a week or so. Yeah, that wasn't fun at all but it went away eventually. In the end I ended up concentrating more on posture and that seemed to correct the breathing as well. I find myself sitting in a poor posture from time to time and notice the breathing becomes limited and shallow as well.

It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation. For years I had poor posture (typical nerd-neck) to the point where standing up straight I couldn't actually breathe properly so I slouched around everywhere instead. My chest and neck were too tight to fully inhale otherwise. I had to fix both at the same time.

How did you fix it? I'm going through that exact thing. I think I have to retrain myself to relax my chest and stomach muscles and breathe deeply at the same time, but it's super difficult and I can only do 2/3.

I got a bit fat and my wife suggested we got to the gym together (pretty much the first time ever for me, age 30+). I had no idea until she mentioned it, it creeps up on you.

Pilates/yoga were good for core strength and stretching. If you want to start at home Yoga by Adriene on YT is very beginner friendly. I was never a fan of cardio or strength training but I did a bit of that too (it was a gym with various classes and instructors).

Also got a dog, it's a great excuse for daily walks.

One day I realised I was actually resting my head on the headrest in the car and wasn't uncomfortable. Until then it'd never felt right and made my throat feel tight at the front. I still have a way to go though, I have back issues and you don't fix 15 years of bad posture in 3 years.

Edit: I'll add after reading the other reply, at the start it's a struggle just knowing what good posture is. It doesn't feel right and natural, because your version of natural has been modified. You don't know how it's meant to feel. I found that exercises which exhaust certain muscle groups helped a lot. They gave up some of their grasp and let other muscles work. After a really heavy workout sometimes my back felt looser and more mobile and this helped me learn how it could feel.

Stretches and mobility exercises. Then one has to be aware of bad/good posture when standing/walking/sitting/doing any activities basically: playing guitar or any instrument, typing on keyboard, etc. We learn to do it wrong and then it becomes second nature. I’ll be honest, what helped me most to be aware and able to change the perception of my posture was after smoking a small dose of pot, small enough not to get one high, maybe buzzed is a better word. I think it helps relaxing muscles - and with poor posture some muscles have to more work and are always tense - and then it helps the proprioceptive awareness.

Poor posture can be slowly changed and it is life changing, obviously worth it.

Surprisingly the tongue has some major effect on posture, especially on forward head posture. There are all sorts of tongue exercises that benefit breathing, posture and even the looks. Tongue should be basically resting behind top front teeth and slightly press up the palate. For exercises look up muscular imbalances and see if you identify any on your posture. But all things start at the feet though, if feet have a problem the whole chain up gets affected so pay attention to the whole body.

> I also feel like there's potentially a market for a digital incentive spirometer that could help people do these things. Especially if problems like this are somewhat common.

I wonder how accurate an app could get with movement detection if you lie down with your phone on your chest. Probably not very, but might be useful.

These are great ideas. I'll try to pass them on to design students.

I bet there are interesting subtle dynamics beyond rate. Maybe interesting to record the acoustics inside the spirometer.

What's the product model? Prescription digital behavior change??

I've imagined building a digital version. I think the big opportunity is in how relatively hard it is track progress on an analog scale. You have to watch the little indicator that you raise with your breath until it stops rising. You don't get an exact reading.

I imagine the digital version using a range finder at the top of the tube to calculate how high you raise the thing you're raising by breathing in and then calculate and report the volume of air you inhaled.

If you combine this with an app you've got a little product going. App can track progress over time. Show you some graphs. Remind you to use the spirometer.

Sell the digital spirometers to hospitals who sometimes give them to patients who have respiratory problems. Get some data to prove the digital version works better and then get insurance companies to cover it or buy it.

> incentive spirometer

I want to try this. If you're happy with yours can you link to it? (everything I'm seeing is either under $10 or over $20 so I'm not sure which way to go)

It seems either the price has gone down or I remembered incorrectly. This is the 8 dollar model I own.


As for being happy with it - yeah pretty much. It's not like it's mind blowing or anything and I've not tried any others to compare it to, so take that for what it's worth, but it works.

I keep mine next to my desk and use it when I'm bored or need a moment to think. I tried following the recommend pattern of use in the instructions but didn't stick to it for very long. Now I just use it when the fancy strikes me.

That's great, thanks!

Also once you develop a history/baseline, you will quickly catch health conditions that affect your lung function and be able to quantify the effect.

Chronic anxiety is a vicious cycle of anxiety-inducing thoughts leading to physical symptoms leading to more anxiety-inducing thoughts. The most recommended solution is to chronic anxiety is to always just refocus on the task you're currently doing and continue on. You'll quickly forget about paying attention to your breathing and return to normal breathing.

Do NOT do breathing exercises to curb anxiety, because that will just reinforce the pathways in your brain and your anxiety will keep recurring.

If you're noticing you're mind is dwelling on anxiety-inducing thoughts you need to refocus on your current task.

Just keep doing that whenever symptoms popup.

The symptoms will popup less and less frequently, and you'll have developed such strong coping mechanisms that you automatically handle the issue.

This is approach is called "cognitive behavioral therapy" or CBT, and is an evidence-based approach used widely. You can consult a therapist and get taught CBT skills by a professional. (That's what I did)

In addition to learning CBT techniques, and get regular exercise and enough sleep. I recommend you cut out all caffeine until you have developed strong CBT skills. Of course, rule out any underlying medical issues and work on any medical conditions (obesity, bad posture).

Once you're comfortable you have anxiety under control you can slowly re-introduce caffeine.

Source: I used to have severe and debilitating chronic hyperventilation and anxiety, but sought help from a CBT therapist a few years ago. Now when I am living my life and notice I've started hyperventilating (or dwelling on an anxious thought), I can immediately stop it by refocusing. It's changed my life and I highly recommend learning the CBT techniques.

I highly recommend a few sessions with a CBT therapist. If you're not in a position to do that you might be able to learn about CBT techniques from elsewhere, such as YouTube.

I'll add a bit of caution for readers: CBT is useful to many but might not be enough, or the right tool, for everyone.

I tried it for years with multiple psychologists and had no progress. Eventually, I found a great psychologist who helped me with a blend of IFS ("internal family systems") and mindfulness to help me not constantly unknowingly suppress feeling and allow me to be present and process emotions.

There's lots of approaches out there, so if anyone's not making progress, try out some of the others!

> Do NOT do breathing exercises to curb anxiety, because that will just reinforce the pathways in your brain and your anxiety will keep recurring.

This sounds speculative. Is there actually empirical evidence that this is the case, or at the very least that intentional, focused breathing exercises interfere with handling anxiety?

Just a riff here based on my personal experience with anxiety, Ithink once an anxiety attack is happening is not the best of times of doing a practice. While slowing your breath helps for instance, its best to reinforce a pattern of breathing when you are at rest.

This is also why I recommend the book “the healing power of breath” its one of the best books I found on the topic without confusing you with all kinds of techniques and so on.

Basically in the beginning you practice 20 minutes a day in rest, so your bodymind starts to adapt to it, and it may overcome the causality that leads to anxiety.

I'm not sure. That statement was paraphrasing what the CBT therapist mentioned when I asked about learning breathing exercises. For the same reason the therapist also advised against my previous coping mechanisms like getting up and leaving the room, in favor for the strategy of simply recognizing your anxious mental state and refocus on the task at hand.

> The most recommended solution is to chronic anxiety is to always just refocus on the task you're currently doing and continue on.

Usually I'm relaxed in the morning, then go to work, enter a state of flow / complete focus, then at the end of the day I'm anxious (this becomes worse when I enter the supermarket for my evening groceries, even as I continue to think about work) and my breath is messed up (short, shallow breathing).

How would your method help here? For me it seems there is a contradiction, or not? Could you explain?

The original poster and I have experienced the vicious cycle of debilitating chronic anxiety with panic attacks and the physical symptoms of hyperventilation like chest pain. CBT crucially helped me "break the cycle" of that mental illness, and I thought my experiences may be helpful for the original poster who solicited advice. But my knowledge of CBT techniques are not from my own research, but second hand knowledge via several sessions with the CBT therapist.

With that said, the CBT advice would be to recognize that thinking about your work in the evenings is causing you anxiety, so to stop getting anxiety you should refocus on the task at hand (shopping for groceries) and stop thinking about work. It's OK to let your mind wander while you shop for groceries, but CBT is about catching yourself when your mind drifts back to a topic which causes you anxiety (your work), and then using the task at hand (shopping for groceries) as a tool to basically distract yourself.

How you can make thinking about work cause you less stress is a different question. My personal advice is to try exercising after work, you'll feel very relaxed after. But if you're finding you're still stressed after work, my suggestion would be to seriously considering stopping your thoughts about work after hours (again, by catching that you're thinking about work and refocusing). Chronic stress kills.

It's like reading something I wrote! I've been in the same boat (chronic hyperventilation, acid reflux, headache, panic attacks) for the past 10+ years and it also started with a health scare. However in my case, it seems to be mostly related to muscle tenseness caused by serotonin imbalance. I finally had too many episodes few years ago and it forced me to learn about it and find ways to deal with it.

Without knowing the root cause in your case, the only thing I can suggest is to train yourself to breathe right while your figure out the underlying cause. The Breathing Retraining chapter of the PTSD Handbook [1] is the best resource I've found for this.

I suggest you see a psychiatrist as chronic hyperventilation can be related to mental health issues.

Feel free to PM me. My email is on GitHub.

Best of luck

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder-Source...

Please read this book : the healing power of breath.

As someone who taught yoga and is familiar with overbreathing, they teach a very simple technique and the writers have a lot of experience.

You actually practice for twenty minutes a day at first, and the technique is very simple (so you don’t get lost in all kinds of details) Once you get the right rhythm for your body type you’re good to go.

Have you tried an oxygen deprivation tent?

Sounds like an easy way to die. Hmmm, yep, DDG for "oxygen deprivation tent" yields, as first sentence:

' Oxygen deprivation tents or “altitude tents” are risky at best. '

But I see their use and that of other athletic oxygen deprivation gear.

In all fairness, our swim team used to do freestyle "hypoxic" drills. For example, we would breathe every other swim stroke for a pool length, then every 3rd stroke for a length, then every 4th stroke, ... until we failed. Once we failed we would fall back to breathing every other stroke. Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, ever passed out but one could feel the hit to one's brain when the O2 level got too low (or the CO2 too high, or whatever).

Those drills were uncomfortable, to say the least, and I was never convinced that they did much good. OTOH they did help me to relax in holding my breath under circumstances where breathing was not possible (e.g., in turns and underwater pushoffs where you might not breathe for nearly a pool length, and they trained me not to panic b/c I needed a breath. I suppose that, thanks to such drills, I might be a little harder to waterboard than the usual suspects, but I chose a less exciting line of work!8-))

Hypoxic training helps swimmers acclimate to the feeling of hypoxia while swimming so they can time their breathing better, it doesn't improve lung function. Humans need much longer exposure to low oxygen for the desirable adaptations to kick in.

Wouldn't that increase hyperventilation, causing a further drop in CO2?

Somehow 403 4 days later. Different domain for the same service: https://archive.vn/NVWOo

Thanks for archive link

What is this site? Firefox gives me an invalid cert error - the page is apparently presenting a certificate issued to cloudflare-dns.com. The site has a Wikipedia article (archive.today) which mentions something about blocking the Cloudflare DNS resolver, but the machine I'm on uses the default (ie my ISP's) resolver. Does anyone know what's going on here?

Guessing you use CloudFlare DNS and archive returns bad IP address. Read through discussion here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19828317

I don't use Cloudflare DNS though ... do I? Seriously, WTF is going on here? The DHCP on my router is configured to distribute the DNS server provided by my ISP!

Firefox switched to DNS-over-HTTPS recently and it uses Cloudflare. (I may be talking nonsense here... This could have nothing to do with it.)

It looks like you're correct.

* systemd-resolve --status -> (my ISP)

* dig archive.is ->

* whois -> Serverio technologijos MB

* Firefox -> Preferences -> Network Settings -> DNS over HTTPS: enabled

I don't recall doing that...


Unbelievable! Apparently Mozilla unilaterally enabled DoH in my browser sometime within the past 2 months without so much as notifying me! WTF?! This sort of thing is completely unacceptable no matter how pure their intentions might be.

It was that weird new popup on the left side of the address bar, saying something about privacy on the web..

Once you know what they're talking about, it had a No Thanks button right on it. IMO I don't like browser DNS myself but their rollout is/was okay by me.

I feel ya. I just switched to Vivaldi due to the "megabar". (More precisely, due to Moz removing the option to disable the megabar.)

I must have missed this change. Searching on the web did not give much information. What's bad about the new address bar?


cracks knuckles

Let me fire up the ol' rant machine...

Ah fuck it... It's too early in the morning.

- - - -

In the great order of things the "megabar" isn't that big of a deal.

I personally hate it, but that's just me.

Objectively it's bad UI for a few reasons, but I don't want to write a big screed about UI design.

At the root of the problem is what dude said above: their attitude stinks.

They activate it without consent.

They remove the option to disable it.

Mozilla has become a caricature of itself. They were already just a fig leaf over Google's hegemony (They get 85%-90% of their money from Google and send telemetry to them by default.) Now it seems like they are adopting the same patronizing and distant stance.

I hate to say it because I used to really like Mozilla and I even have some friends working there so I know it's a bunch of really good, committed folks over there, but to me their progress and process have become retrograde along the dimensions I care most about.

Any lost functionality? New privacy issues? The main thing I noticed was that the bar got some empty space to its left and right, which took some effort to remove.

I did pretty well at running a race, a few years ago as a typical sedate developer, but training for 3 months. I was sick (i.e. flu-ey a lot, nothing uber serious) at the time too - I was running to help see if I can fitness my way out of it.

And I put a lot of it down to reading about breathing in for 2 steps then out for 3 (the total is an odd number so you change sides, so 3/4 is good too). Thanks for whoever wrote that blog post! The process really focuses me and it's like a drumbeat in my mind. If I sprint it changes to 1/1 or less though, and I stop using the nose!

I run daily, about 20-30 miles a week.

My "regular" breathing pattern (i.e. the one I use to run at medium-hard paces for long distances) is:

nose-in, mouth out: in, out-out, in-in, ooout.

1/4, 1/8, 1/8, 1/8, 1/8, 1/2.

I attenuate the BPM to my pace: on high intensity runs, I usually can get away with raising the BPM, but the last 1/2 is very hard and I sometimes break it into 1/4 out, 1/4 in (more oxygen). For sprinting, any pattern goes away, and it's 1/4 in, 1/4 out. Still nose to mouth, but I think the optimal solution here depends a lot on the shapes of your nose/mouth. :)

And most people think running is just putting one foot in front of the other! :)

To some extent it is of course, but these kinds of cadences are necessary to run effectively, which I guess is different from just running.

Highly recommend "box breathing" as well. I've found this app to be great for both meditation and breathing exercises: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/oak-meditation-breathing/id121...

Additional links:

- https://time.com/4316151/breathing-technique-navy-seal-calm-...

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJJazKtH_9I

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZzhk9jEkkI

For those of you that haven't heard of the Wim Hof method, that's a breathwork that can tremendously improve your health. It is also, kind of scientifically proven.


This smells like BS. I scrolled through the entire home page and it doesn’t even attempt to explain what the “Wim Hof method” is.

I Mettamage, first of my name (yes! Always wanted to do that), declare on the interwebs as a random person that I was a test subject in the following study:


True story :)

I guess it helps that:

- My name is mettamage (metta = loving-kindness in Buddhism). So I'm into this stuff (read search inside yourself for the science on meditation).

- Like Wim, I'm Dutch: Nederlands is mijn moedertaal en ik ben pienter genoeg om Engels te spreken ;-) Soms ben ik een flierefluiter ^^ (Google Translate won't get that right, haha)

- I have mentioned it before (it's somewhere in my HN history).

TL;DR - what I did in Poland for 4 training days:

1. Breathing Techniques: the most important one is a lot like hyperventilation but not the same (!). Explanation: I couldn't find a good YouTube video quick as even Wim himself isn't explaining it well on YouTube, IMO. He explained it way differently than me. The WHM is a lot like this video, except it's quite quick and not this seemingly relaxing breathing stuff: https://youtu.be/nzCaZQqAs9I?t=137

2. Cold exposure training (including breathing technique)

3. Walking up a mountain for 2.5 hours (-7 degrees celsius) in my shoes and shorts. I was fine. It was a lot of fun as well. The adrenaline was high and insanely awesome. Thrill seekers love this stuff.

Then afterwards we got tested with an endotoxin. Normally you get an immune response. People who did the WHM had a 50% reduced immune respons and a lot of adrenaline. They think it's because of the shit ton of cortison that we produce while doing the WHM. A lot of cortisol --> weakened immune response.


A YouTube video about the science of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWHRumILOOk

The WHM made me a 10% happier person because I never have to worry about the cold ever again. The cold can be uncomfortable still, but it's a lot of fun because I have some control about it now!

Wim is crazy. The people studying him aren’t.

Then it would seem reasonable to throw out what he says and wait to see what, if anything, comes from research he inspires.

There is already a lot of research. I have some comments about it in my whole HN history for if you're truly curious.

Go to Google Scholar and look it up.

I just re-edited my whole thing (behind a laptop now).

For other HN people I did mention pre-edit: "Wim is crazy. The people studying him aren’t."

Enough research has been done, as far as I'm concerned it's a case closed.

The WHM does things that we couldn't do before (e.g. be more resistant against the cold). Now we can, more research is needed to fully understand it. For people who dismiss it, they simply haven't taken the time to watch some doctor explain it on YouTube in-depth. And I get that, but then don't say it's BS, simply say you're sceptical.

I'm the first person to burn occult things to the ground as I hate nonsense. This seems occult, but it isn't. It doesn't help that Wim acts like a guru, but what he does can be rooted in science. He roots it in science by asking scientists to research him. From his perspective that's all he can do.

Here is an amazing summary on the research of a sceptical doctor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6EPuUdIC1E&t=2285s

>I'm the first person to burn occult things to the ground as I hate nonsense. This seems occult, but it isn't. It doesn't help that Wim acts like a guru, but what he does can be rooted in science. He roots it in science by asking scientists to research him. From his perspective that's all he can do.

I don't mean to sound offensive, but you sound exactly like one of those sleazy occult (or MLM) salesmen that's trying to bullshit me. On the other hand, if this works then great!

It’s not. When I first walked into the workshop yoga center I was like none of these people have their heads screwed on right. I proceeded the breathework workshop, mostly out of curiosity, and it was transformative. I’m a convert.

It's not BS although a little too much selling. It's basically breathing exercises and exposure to cold by cold showers and ice baths.

That’s like saying paying for a trainer to help you run 10 miles is like paying someone to tell you to run in around a track N times. There’s nuance at all levels: safety, motivation, guidance etc

I don't understand the comment. Wim Hof has a very specific program.

I agree it's a little too much selling.

good video explaining the mechanics of the Wim Hof method.


Wim Hof method has some serious risks.

How you are breathing is also a part of your body language. I don't know how much of your breathing is recognized by other humans, but having been around animals most of my life, I've realized they perceive how you are breathing at the moment as a signal of what you are thinking. If you suddenly hold your breath, you are tense. You may not even be aware you are doing it. If you release the air in your lungs and breath out, you are relaxing. These are 2 of the strongest cues that animals react to. If you're curious, the next time your around an animal, experiment with it. Try steady in and out breathing, then subtly hold your breath for a moment, then exhale loudly, and see if and how the animal responds.

Totally 100 million %

All conversation starts with breathing and we pick up on all sorts of signals even when people are trying to pretend otherwise

I've often said whoever controls the breathing controls the conversation and I say this as a former professional conversation instructor

People don't take hardly enough advantage of their lung capacity maybe with COVID we'll start taking this into consideration

I have a story to relate

I was working at a large private software company, the largest in north America think SalesForce but not SalesForce

The CTO was giving what was intended to be a pep talk but for some reason maybe nerves maybe he wasn't warmed up on the mic we could hear his wheezing breath

Nobody paid any attention to the message all anyone could talk about was the quality of his breath -- anything he had to say was completely lost

This article is another example of the mainstream only now catching up to things which we all know and have known for ages

People communicate on the level of subconscious and physiological signals and it's useless to pretend otherwise

The book : Oxygen advantage[1] makes similar points. It points out to the research of why swimmers have higher life expectancy than the average athelete, why almost all of us are hyperventilating. Then he outlines simple exercises to improve your breathing habit.

Few points: 1. Always breathe through your nose. Even when you are jogging/cycling heavily. 2. Try to hold your breathe for elongate period of time. 3. Try doing 2 while walking/running/cycling. 4. Swim! 5. Pushing the breathe out and then holding is better than taking the breathe in and holding.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26533127-the-oxygen-adva...

I have fairly narrow nostrils and have a hard time imagining this!

I feel the same, and honestly, I think it's a major disadvantage. Being able to breathe through your nose exclusively even while exercising seems insane to me.

The general principal may be fine. My narrow nostrils are one of several genetic reasons why I would be more likely to be eaten by a tiger than many. So I'm not in the upper percentiles that this advice is likely aimed at!

That book lost me when he started in on the "acid diet". (Not that I don't understand it, but rather I believe it's been soundly refuted.)

For some reason, I find this GIF really relaxing. I have it bookmarked and match my breathing to it every once in awhile https://i.imgur.com/Huou7Gh.gif

4 seconds breathe in -> 4 seconds hold -> 4 seconds expel air -> 4 seconds hold and repeat 4+ times...

...works for me every time

Some call it zen, some call it breathing exercises or whatever. Try it.

Is this for all awake time, or during a practice that you do for so many minutes a day?

This is for whenever I need to slow down for whatever reason. I don't do it every day. I am not a believer in spiritual so this is a completely mechanic breathing exercise for me and I can immediately feel my heart rate going down and overall better feel.

I use this several times a week to help me get to sleep. I count to 112 or so. 75% of the I'm usually asleep within five minutes of finishing. Not always, though.

Have you tried counting backwards from a big number like 5000? I had a guided meditation once that used this method. The longer number and slightly higher cognitive load is apparently useful to distract your brain from distracting thoughts and imagery. Just enough work to keep it busy but relaxed. I lost track a lot, they said just pick the last number you remember without trying too hard and continue.

Haven't tried that. Sounds cool! Thanks.

There was a related study of "Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST)" breathing exercises which showed a huge decrease in blood pressure with 5 mins of training for 6 weeks:


More on that topic here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22656799

Does anyone have a guide to how to actually do these exercises?

First you need a inspiratory muscle trainer device and nose clips/plugs. It's basically just a valve that can be tightened with a knob. You can get them on Amazon and whatnot.

The actual exercise just involves inhaling through the device, for a couple of minutes, and over the course of days/weeks/months working up to higher resistance levels. It's hard work, and it bugs me that it forces you to mouth-breathe, but it will strengthen the muscles.

The linked study does 30 inhalations per session.

Yea, thanks, I bought the device used in the study, wasn't sure if there was more to it.

Always when im zoned out drawing or painting i notice the pattern in my breath, it’s much slower and holds a bit at the end. The effect is super calming. I wonder what other activities people do to get this type of breathing. For coding Im so concentrated at times that I zone out 100%, dont even notice that im breathing. However, coding while stressed out makes the breathing shallow, quick and unsatisfying.

When I consciously take long, deep breaths, it feels almost like an easing function is applied to it.

A lifetime of lung problems (asthma, and many cases of pneumonia as a child) and martial arts has made me very conscious of my breathing. Spent a lot of time with physiotherapists working on breathing. In part just to strengthen muscles, but also to learn airway clearance techniques. Started practicing martial arts as a child, where there is often a strong focus on breath. Tried the Buteyko method for a while, but never fully internalized it.

There is, anecdotally, definitely some underappreciated value in slow breathing. Feeling anxious (for whatever reason)? Check your breathing and slow it down. Maybe throw in some alternate nostril breathing, though I'm not sure if it's the distraction that does it or the breathing. Light asthma attack and wheezing? Check your breathing, slow it down, maybe add some pursed lip exhalations. Major asthma attack? Inhaler :-).

But in spite of the improvements I've made to breathing while I'm awake, I still managed to develop sleep apnea. You win some, you lose some ...

It makes sense that controlling your breathing would help with asthma. After all, asthma is triggered by stressing your airways. If you can somehow do it less then that will help. I find it odd that this isn't taught to everyone who suffers from asthma. It could potentially save their life.

I help out with a festival literally called “Breathe” https://www.discoverbreathe.com/ It started largely focusing on Slacklining and has since branched out to many other things but it quite remarkable how much the way we breath affects us mentally and physically!

Related tangent: over 7 years ago, in recovery from emergency medical treatment, I started "sitting zazen" (doing Sato Buddhist Zen -based seated meditation) for 10 minutes every morning. It's been transformational. It's so simple. And so powerful. Being able to connect with your breath, return to the present moment, and quiet your possibly-noisy mind... it's practically a superpower. I'm a much, much happier and better person for it. Highest possible recommendation to find a breath-related habit that works for you.

Any possibility that you're just 7 years older?

I've been meditating for two years, have found similar benefits, and I'm sure it's not a function of age because sometimes I stop for a while and the benefits go away. It doesn't seem like placebo either, because previously I'd tried other meditation techniques that weren't nearly so beneficial.

There's a fair amount of peer-reviewed research on the benefits of mindfulness meditation, and it doesn't seem all that unlikely that exercising your brain in different ways really can help your brain function differently.

Research involving brains, feelings, and other difficult if not impossible to define parameters is not rigorous.

How do you propose studying brains, feelings, etc.? We just shouldn't bother?

I don't know. I don't mind people taking a stab at it, but it should still be looked at skeptically, especially once you move away from measurable metrics as it ceases to be science.

The subjectivity of experience doesn't prevent something being science.

How might someone conduct a blinded placebo controlled trial of a suicide prevention campaign, or of parental advice to help reduce risk of cot death, for example?

They wouldn't. They'd roll up their sleeves and get deeply involved in the messy, unpredictable world of human emotion and social interaction.

And that's good and appropriate, and there are effective and responsible methods for doing it.

Just because we can point to something and say "aha, that's subjective" doesn't mean we need to eliminate it. In fact, the more we try to eliminate it, the harder it becomes to translate evidence from the lab to the real world.

Objectivity world be nice, but it's vanishingly rare.

What if it shows physical changes? E.g. "Effects of Long-Term Mindfulness Meditation on Brain's White Matter Microstructure and its Aging"


Well, when it comes to studying breathing techniques and their effect over time you can quite easily do a large scale randomized controlled trial and survey participants on perceived increase in well-being, right?

The track record of studies using “perceived” statistics is not good. Humans are subject to an endless list of biases.

Do you believe in the psychological benefit of exercise? That has all the same study problems as meditation.

Replacing the word believe with assume, I assume studies about the psychological benefits of exercise are just as weak as any other psychological study.

Interesting medical advice - for a longer life, simply get older ;-)

In this respect, it turns out that birthdays are extremely healthy— those who have the most of them tend to live the longest.

That's quite a cheeky aphorism. I love it.

I think that OP meant to ask "is it possible your perception has changed with age/experience, rather than with your methods?"

Yes :-) But as I get older I notice there is very little difference between doing something for years and converging my perception to believe what i have been doing was worthwhile.

So i should choose carefully.

I have also noticed that whatever defaults i left childhood with are ridiculously hard to change.

It is true though, that the longer you live, the longer your life expectancy.

Indeed and yet, paradoxically, living longer is quite literally what's killing you¹...

1: Cells have two ultimate fates: they either fail to resist cancer or, if they succeed, eventually die of doing it, sort of wear-and-tear, i.e. "ageing" as we call it. Lookup telomeres and cancer. Therein lies the recent hype/hope of increasing human life expectancy by a lot, perhaps orders of magnitude.

Ha! Yes, I am older (though the degree to which that correlates with wisdom or calm is debatable). But I kept up with it so consistently in large part because it was so helpful.

related to your related tangent: my great grandfather was obsessed with something called the "Buteyko method" for breathing. He was able to control and basically heal his asthma with it. My grandma (his daughter) now does it for herself and seemingly has great results for mental/physical health. I used to do it as a child but I fell off of it and now I've been thinking of going back as a meditative method.

I found this on Buteyko: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKaUEVnducI Interesting, he seems to be saying that we shouldn't take deep breaths instead slow and shallow. So kind of the opposite of many other techniques mentioned here.

The Buteyko Method is based on the idea that over breathing or hyperventilating is bad for you. Contrary to popular belief expelling too much carbon dioxide is actually not good for you due to the Bhor Effect, which basically says that oxygen cant be released from haemoglobin to cells in our body without enough carbon dioxide. By slowing your breath you increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your body , which then allows better oxygenation of your cells due to the Bhor Effect.

I tried this a while back. Most of the content was paywalled but one video I found summed it up pretty well. Most people are essentially constantly hyperventilating and our body is acting accordingly.

Being able to control the "pause" was a crucial part of it, and the little bit of info I gleamed from it was helpful for me.


> Most people are essentially constantly hyperventilating and our body is acting accordingly.

it's very interesting, because i always find that i'm instead almost always holding my breath for some reason. not sure if that has anything to do with doing these exercises or not, but im always taking deep breaths randomly because i dont realize that im sort of out of air

I can relate to that. I always hold my breath going up stairs in particular, and it's probably why I get dizzy doing squats (any kind of compression makes me just hold my breath).

Well, reading that and testing how long I can breathe out and hold it is how I noticed iOS stopwatch can be swiped left/right and has a cool analogue stopwatch display.

> "Having a control pause of less than 25 seconds is poor and 25 seconds to 35 seconds means there is room for improvement. The goal is to reach a comfortable breath hold time of 40 seconds. The average control pause of students attending our clinics is around 15 seconds."

5 seconds feels like a long time, 15 seconds is as far as I could go first couple of tries, 20-25 seconds my upper body/throat gets twitchy trying to reopen, then I pushed it to 30 seconds a couple of times, and just now 40 seconds.

I'm suspicious that something I can go from "poor" and "average" to the goal(?) in about 10 tries can be so serious - unless you're supposed to be able to do that between every breath?

I have severe doubts about something like this being able to heal asthma. It very likely helps against asthma attacks and when it's triggered, but asthma in general is an allergic reaction. Slow breathing can help control it by limiting the irritation in the upper airways so that they don't constrict as quickly, but I don't see how it would get rid of it entirely.

I meditate ten minutes a day. It does absolutely nothing for me.

When you start meditating, 10 mins a day is bullshit. You need 30 mins before you can get the hang of it. When you start out, go to a retreat if you can afford the time and money and sit there for 3 days and watch your mind. If you can't do this (I myself couldn't do this btw), then start with minimum 1 hour everyday first thing in the morning. At the 2 month mark you will see changes. After that you can bring the time down based on how much you can commit, still not less than 30 mins IMO. But give this a try with min 1 hour. It is life changing simple thing to not be able to give it at least a shot. I tried it for 10 years on and off before it finally clicked.

I can roughly offer supporting anecdotal evidence for this. I went years meditating 10-15 min increments without achieving much at all. It was only when I switched to doing 45-60 min every single day for about 3-4 months that some crazy and life-changing breakthroughs started happening.

Crazy and life-changing breakthroughs?

Elimination of my social anxiety, near-constant mindfulness throughout the day, profound and lasting experiences of joy, some weird purging of like every negative emotion I've ever internalized, significant memory enhancements, etc. It was definitely not all sunshine and rainbows going through that process, especially since it caught me so off guard (I only got into meditation to have a bit more focus and discipline, and I even thought I was pretty practiced as a meditator before I started getting really diligent about it, but boy was I wrong.) ...but on balance, I'd overwhelmingly say it was worth it.

Sane and life-changing breakthroughs.

I did do some longer sessions (30-60m) in the beginning, which may have helped it to "click", but -- YMMV -- for me, ~10m is the threshold where it can suffice for the day. Increasingly in recent months I'm able to effectively meditate while doing other things, and it's more a deliberate letting go and and complete immersion in the present than a focus of attention on breathing... but starting my day w zazen is essential.

I can confirm that 10 min is not enough.

I also did meditation on and off for years, without much benefit. Then I went to a 10-day silent meditation course (the free Goenka one). On the third day it clicked. Now meditation is extremely useful for me. My life has improved a lot since then. I meditate about 4-5 one-hour sessions per month.

Maybe you'd feel way worse if you didn't do it.

In "Mind Illuminated" it is suggested to start with 15 minutes and add 5 after each week. This book has been recommended here several times before, helped at least one person that meditated for years to advance further. Written by a neuroscientist that teaches meditation for decades.

Could I ask why you continue to do it?

"research says / better safe than sorry" - kind of like running, not eating sugar, doing n-back training, etc

But if you're just doing it to do it, especially with something like meditation, does it actually have value? No sugar certainly, but meditation is really just there for the emotional effects.

Doing things just because research says you should do it, or because you're better safe than sorry, is simply punting the decision and the cognitive understanding to an authority. You shouldn't be surprised when none of these things "work" -- do you even understand why they should?

This is a nonsensical statement. I cannot confirm accepted research in a time efficient manner. What I can do to make my life better is read, and trust authoritative research, after confirming the authority.

Furthermore, I can observe personalized effects over long time spans - e.g. change in physical condition after lifting or getting enough sleep for x amount of time.

That is the exact same approach to meditation, what is your qualm?

Furthermore, I am yet to hear someone explain these depths in meditation that everyone seems to allude too. As far as I know it's "sit still, focus on one thing or push away all thoughts." Or chant a mantra, if you want to pay for Transcendental Meditation lessons which come up with a personalized mantra that makes zero sense at all.

The sugar thing will work whether he believes it or not.

Belief is your word, not mine. If you don't jump in front of the train, you have avoided that hazard. But if you understand why your parent told you not to jump in front of the train, you might also be able to independently figure out why you shouldn't jump in front of a speeding car.

Can you see what I'm getting at here?

EDIT: Sorry. Originally said "what I'm driving at here". It's been a long week and I'm subconsciously making bad puns.

Still, not jumping in front of the train will 'work' regardless of whether you understand why. And it's a lot more useful than remaining agnostic about train-jumping until you understand the physical principles involved.

Agreed that genuine understanding is more useful, of course -- but correctly choosing which authorities to believe (and with what level of confidence) is often a necessary second-best. How many things do any of us truly understand in full detail?

What if jumping in front of a train ("trainspotting") worked regardless of whether you understood why?

> How many things do any of us truly understand in full detail?

Can you visualize the mechanism? You either do or you don't. Maybe the visualization is misleading. Maybe it's not. But if you're at least doing the motions there, you're revising the mechanism rather than reinventing the wheel from scratch.

> What if jumping in front of a train ("trainspotting") worked regardless of whether you understood why?

Not sure if I understand you here (I don't get the 'trainspotting' reference), but: in a world where not jumping in front of trains was fatal, parents would instruct their kids to jump in front of trains, and the ones who took their advice would survive.

In a world where it didn't matter so much either way, who knows, maybe some parents would needlessly forbid their children from jumping in front of trains. So the kids who didn't blindly follow their parents' advice might benefit from their curiosity. But if they made a habit of ignoring their parents' advice until they fully understood the reasoning behind it, they would do a bunch of other stupidly dangerous things and probably die.

> Can you visualize the mechanism? You either do or you don't. Maybe the visualization is misleading. Maybe it's not. But if you're at least doing the motions there, you're revising the mechanism rather than reinventing the wheel from scratch.

I think there's a big gap between having some kind of mental model, and having a sufficiently detailed, accurate, robust mental model to make independent judgments in important contexts. Sure, a rough high-level understanding can be useful as a preliminary bullshit detector, pinging for things that should be taken with great scepticism pending further investigation; but unless you understand a topic in full detail, you're always at risk of making 'logical' deductions that fail because of unknown (to you) unknowns.

Sure, and that's inductive generalization and it's useful, but even just using empirical evidence is sufficient for a lot of things. You don't have to understand the causative relation. In fact, much of medicine is this way. Doing X causes adverse effect Y, doing P causes beneficial effect Q.


> You shouldn't be surprised when none of these things "work" -- do you even understand why they should?

Understanding is not required for many things. And in fact, the thing does work!

As an example, I do not actually understand why lifting makes me stronger. Why do muscles respond to increased resistance with more strength? Certainly my ankle ligaments didn't respond to injury with more strength. Well, I don't care and it doesn't matter. It will still work.

> As an example, I do not actually understand why lifting makes me stronger. Why do muscles respond to increased resistance with more strength? Certainly my ankle ligaments didn't respond to injury with more strength. Well, I don't care and it doesn't matter. It will still work.

Maybe you'll get lucky. Or maybe, you'll wish you took the time to understand should you blow a disc in your spine. Is it possible that that you'd learn a bit more about the difference between bodyweight exercises and more than bodyweight exercises, and the requisite amount of care to do the two sustainably long term without incurring risks of debilitating injury?

That’s the magic of form. You don’t need deep understanding, you only need rules. It’ll be fine.

So you need a rule set, you need to take it seriously, you need to pick the right ones (and not accidentally pick the wrong ones or omit the right ones), and if you make a mistake, you can seriously physically injure yourself. Sounds like deep understanding to me; could you be taking it for granted because you've come to a point of mastery such it feels facile?

I'm flattered, naturally :)

But in my case I just paid a guy to tell me what to do until it became automatic habit.

It's a method for working memory training, which is linked to IQ.

throw1234651234 is simply stating their experience in earnest. I don't think downvotes are necessary here. Does their views on meditation threaten your own? Then go back to your cushions, meditate more.

> simply stating their experience in earnest

If they were doing that, they could use a normal username. Signing up with a throwaway to post a one-line "doesn't work" criticism about something many people feel strongly about is much more akin to "trolling" than "sharing in earnest".

A more charitable interpretation is that they believe this kind of 'null anecdote' is useful: usually people who experience major effects (positive or negative) are much more likely to share their experiences, and that skews the body of anecdotal evidence.

(As for the account, who knows -- maybe they correctly anticipated downvotes, but believed the comment was nevertheless worth making -- but it is several months old.)

I somewhat agree with your point, but I think it's pretty important that they said "It does absolutely nothing for me" - calling this as a '"doesn't work" criticism' is dishonest.

Go through my profile - I have been posting on this topic for a while, including in this thread. I recently read "Altered Traits", as a result of threads like these. Unfortunately, instead of the promised research, it was tripe that culminated in "I started taking medication for my high blood pressure because meditation doesn't work."

I am extremely interested in the subject, but I am also interested in concrete results.

How do you know it does absolutely nothing for you?

At the very least, those 10 minutes you're spending meditating are 10 minutes not spent doing something else. Whatever that something else is, would very likely have a different effect. So if anything, meditating is affecting you by displacing something else that would leave its own mark.

In some ways, I think "doing absolutely nothing" is the point of meditation, perhaps you're just not appreciating it yet.

Too much irony.

Yes, meditation should deliver noticeable results. If it doesn't then you are doing it wrong.

Or alternatively, meditation doesn't really do much and people are benefiting from the placebo effect.

Yeah, there's people that see no difference from eating vegetables, or, when taking drugs "they don't affect me".

Pretty sure many of those people simply aren't good at feeling themselves.

Ever thought that you may be doing it wrong? This is often my first tool to turn to when something isn't as others describe. But once again, you may be right and it may not work for you. There is nothing in this world that fits everybody, we have some variations in what we respond to

Don't think there is anything to it past "focus on one thing / focus on breath."

I’m fairly sure there is more to it from a technique perspective. Works like the Visuddhimagga and the Vimuttimagga explain the whole “focus on one thing / focus on breath” thing in extraordinary detail, and I consider these basically a forgotten technology. I have found these micro-steps to be really helpful in learning to meditate more deeply but are almost entirely ignored in the Western explanations and meditation apps.

That said, the traditional texts are still hard to parse. I’ve considered writing a manual-to-the-manual of sorts that explains the same concepts but in a modern way. I should mention that Leigh Brasington has some really awesome content out there (videos, books, and articles). I am not a master meditator, but if that sort of a thing exists, Leigh is.

Others who have explained mindfulness of breathing in a modern way are Bhante Gunaratana, Bhikku Analayo, Culadasa, Larry Rosenberg, Bhikku Buddhadasa (though his take is unconventional), Michael Taft, etc.

But as you have said there are many more techniques. I've heard the breath called a relatively difficult meditation object for beginners.

All I heard is a bunch of obscure references and name dropping. If there was a clear technique, one would be able to outline it like outlining the steps to deadlifting correctly.

There are many techniques that work. They can all be clearly outlined as well, but that is more work than I'm willing to undertake here. The names I dropped (as you kindly put it) have done all that work and compiled their efforts into well thought out, well written, well edited and well reviewed books. There are a lot of nuances and individual variations on problems that come up and how to get past them that all these books address.

But you have to make the effort of reading the books (or finding a competent teacher) and then practicing the techniques hard enough and long enough for a fair appraisal. 10 minutes a day of instructions from Headspace is predictably useless. You can write it off at that if you like, but it would be like pumping a dumbbell for two reps a day and concluding that weightlifting is useless as exercise.

To many, there are life changing effects, from being generally more aware to being more calm or sleeping better. Clearly, if for you it doesn't do any of that, you're one of those who cannot benefit from meditation. But you may never know if you're inadvertently not doing it right. So many times in my life I thought I was doing something right only to discover much much later that somehow I was doing it the wrong way.

If you think it’s easy to focus on one thing, you haven’t tried meditation.

I had an (admittedly small) emergency treatment about 2 years ago. Stopped to just relax maybe 10 times over the whole time span (apart from trying to fall asleep).

Oh, and I also don't do running or any other sort of exercise regularly. Felt awesome most of the time, and still do. Especially after eating ice cream.

Ditto. meditation. It's a superpower. That is my experience.


The kid’s show ‘Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood’ has lots of great songs for children, and one of them we use at home is the:

‘If you feel so bad, Like you’ve got to roar, Take a deep breath (breath in, out) and count to four’

We sing this a lot with our tantrumers and it works great :)

The other important thing the article doesn't mention is that mouth-breathing causes the body to eliminate too much carbon dioxide -- you're literally "over-breathing". Blood CO2 is vital for proper oxygenation.

By dropping CO2 too low, you actually decrease brain and organ performance by binding oxygen too tightly with hemoglobin, starving your organs.

It's actually fairly rare for young people to have too little oxygen in their blood, but really common for them to have too little CO2, from over-breathing. By slowing down breathing, and most importantly, NOSE breathing, you normalize blood CO2 and restore cognitive / organ function.

This is bad news, as it seems my nose is constantly blocked. No idea why.

This works for me.

blow out all the air from your lungs.

hold your breath and pinch your nose.

exhale more air (and more and more)

attempt to breath in through your nose (against the pinch)

hold your breath even longer.

(optional aerobic activity to use up the last oxygen (pushups, running))

when you can't hold any more (hold a little longer)

Physiologically internal parts will constrict to open up the airways.

Finally release the pinch and inhale only through the nose.

(airways open; ears pop, mucus loosens)

I also found this helps.

Basically hold your breath till you feel it becoming uncomfortable. Hold for just a few more seconds (but no need to pass out). A reflex will kick in and open your airways.

I went to an allergy doctor (covered by insurance), got the tests, and found out I'm allergic to dust mites. Since following the doctor's advice, my nose no longer gets stuffy. Stopping the chronic inflammation has also helped my overall health and will probably prolong my life.

It was straightforward: encase mattress and pillows with waterproof covers (SafeRest & AllerEase), launder all bedding once a week on the hot/anti-bacterial setting, switch to furniture with non-fabric upholstery (Ikea Knislinge), and move to an apartment without carpet. Sleeping with a window open has also helped me a lot.

Ask an allergist. It's a common problem.

"You are allergic to xyz." is what you'll hear. And that's it. It doesn't actually fix the problem. They might prescribe a medication that helps in severe cases, but they generally don't give you advice like other comments here about fixing your mattress etc.

Mine used to be as well. Turned out to be some sort of allergy, most likely a gluten intolerance. I don't eat gluten any longer and my nose is rarely, if ever, blocked.

Why would it bind more tightly?

High ph is my understanding from what I've read, but I am not a chemist.

Really interesting. But at the same time, after four zillion years of evolution, we still don't breathe in a reasonably optimal way?

Exactly, if you are going to make a claim that most people are breathing inadequately, back it up more. The author made numerous appeals to authority and didn't include links to any studies. The only study he actually mentioned was a study on himself about mouth breathing.

It's worth pointing out in this connection that breathing is both autonomic and volitional. Only blinking (and I think one other that I can't recall ATM) is also like that. In other words, breathing is one of the only two (three?) vital autonomic processes that one can do non-optimally!

You can't digest wrong, or regulate your temperature wrong, or pump your blood wrong, etc. but you can breath wrong.

In some (sub-)cultures breathing is at the core of knowledge and health while in others it's barely understood, eh?

(FWIW, I suspect that volitional breathing must have something to do with spoken language, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to do other than speculate.)

Breathing in is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system (muscle tensing) and breathing out by the parasympathetic nervous system (muscle relaxing). Together they are the ANS.

When the amygdala (our alarm system) recognises danger it sets the sympathetic nervous system off which also mediates much of our automatic fight or flight responses, what we often describe as stress.

We have no direct conscious control over our amygdala, it’s a one way messaging system, apart from breathing (afaik). Breathing is one of the few ANS controlled functions that we have conscious control over.

In breathing slowly and deeply we decrease the rate we’re firing the sympathetic nervous system and increasing the rate of firing of the parasympathetic nervous system (muscles contract once, muscles relax for extended period).

I suspect this actually allows us some level of communication with the amygdala, perhaps allowing us to turn it off, or reduce it’s volume, which in turn would reduce the level of stress we experienced.

For anyone interested in this (and not the broken bastardised Western versions you'll find on youtube) check out:

The Hindu‑Yogi Science of Breath http://www.yogebooks.com/english/atkinson/1903sciencebreath....

I can’t read the whole article because of the paywall, but I wanted to talk about how COVID-19 has impacted my mental health, and it has very much to do with breathing.

I have always had bad pollen allergies and I have always had moderate anxiety. I live alone. Great family and friends but over the past few months I was completely isolated.

One morning, I felt a tickle in my throat, I was able to tell myself that it was just from post nasal drip and not COVID related. Well, later that night I started to experience shortness of breath, chest tightness/pain. Then, my limbs started to tingle and go numb and lastly my face.

I walked outside for one and a half hours at 10:00 PM, identifying three sounds, three sights and three body parts. I finally calmed myself down from what I learned was an anxiety attack. I suffered multiple episodes of this for 5-6 nights. It was almost always triggered by a thought that I couldn’t breathe or I wasn’t getting enough air or that my chest was tight. It got to the point where I couldn’t function, broke down into tears and at twenty-six years old, I went back to my parents house.

I have been here for about a month. I had a couple minor episodes here, my parents were able to talk me out of it. I was also prescribed medication for the anxiety (so far this has been a tremendous help). One day, I didn’t feel anxious at all but I noticed that I couldn’t take a full deep breath most of the time. My parents told me it’s allergies, but the thought in the back of my mind that it was the virus or worse was always there.

I called my doctor again, he prescribed me singulair. It’s helped considerably but every time now that I take a deep breath I am extra thoughtful about it. I’ve been meditating and doing breathing exercises as often as I remember now and it has helped.

That being said, even if I don’t actually get the virus, this virus has taken a toll on me and my mental health. The isolation, not being in an office and hypochondria have negatively impacted me in ways I never would have imagined. However, I’m stronger for it now.

At 25 with post nasal drip and asthma, I had the same experience I was alone in my Brooklyn apartment for 9 weeks. I had the same progression and my first real experience with panic attacks and am now also at my parent's house but I've been here for less than 2 weeks so far.

This read like my experience entirely. This whole thing has really taken a toll and before this I wasn't really one to panic about anything.

Hyperventilation and anxiety leads to panic attacks. I used to have them, they can feel like you're dying. I recommend seeing a therapist: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23279349

Thanks, that advice in that post is really useful, I had started just keeping on with the task at hand and I'm glad to hear that was the right move. Breathing exercises just made me feel worse in the moment.

As to the therapist, I've had them off and on during particularly difficult times but nothing very long term and that has helped me so I think you're right it may be time to work out another couple month arrangement.

Pretty much the same thing happened to me. Hope you feel better!

Some notes from my own experience: Anxiety meds themselves can cause shortness of breath. Withdrawal from anxiety meds can cause further anxiety. Benadryl to treat post nasal drip can cause difficulty breathing. If you're laying down a lot, especially after eating, that can cause heart burn which if you're not used to it you would think your lungs are burning.

If you can - get tested. It will improve your confidence and help you get out of the funk.

> It was almost always triggered by a thought that I couldn’t breathe or I wasn’t getting enough air or that my chest was tight.

> One day, I didn’t feel anxious at all but I noticed that I couldn’t take a full deep breath most of the time.

What you experienced is called hyperventilation. It's when you breathe so much that you have exhaled too much CO2, causing a pH change in your blood. You then responded with fear that led to recurring panic attack (panic disorder).

I am surprised you didn't use the term 'hyperventilation'. Several years ago I had a similar episode, developing chest pain and recurring panic attacks (panic disorder) due to hyperventilation. In the past I also had moderate (to severe) anxiety.

It was debilitating, but I've resolved my issues with techniques learned through therapy. You might be interested in reading: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23279349

> identifying three sounds, three sights and three body parts

Is there a name or more information about this technique?

I saw it somewhere online, maybe WebMD. They called it the 3-3-3 technique. It's supposed to ground you. It worked for me, but your mileage may vary.

Thanks I had a look and there are a few variations but yours seems simplest. A lot of these techniques seem to be about replacing a runaway train of thought with an innocuous focus of some kind to reset it.

I find that paying attention to the transition from inhalation to exhalation is particularly useful in assessing my current emotional state.

Focusing on _allowing_ the natural elasticity of my lungs take care of initiating exhalation -- this will usually be enough to change my mood in a positive way.

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