My regular readers may have noted it has been quite a few weeks since my last post. This was due to undergoing an emergency appendectomy about two weeks ago. The pain before and after surgery was quite strong and unpleasant. Traditional western medicine encourages administering progressively stronger pain medicine until the patient is satisfied with their level of pain control.
Instead on taking everything available to me for pain, I wanted to experiment on myself with pranayama as part of my pain management plan. By focusing on slow equal ratio abdominal breathing, I was able to make enough of a difference in my pain to cut my pain meds in half. Now, this was in no way a well designed study, but there are quite a few studies published demonstrating statistically significant reduction in pain by participating in yoga breathing techniques.
A study published in the April 2010 issue of Pain demonstrated that both healthy individuals and those with fibromyalgia reported reduced ratings of pain intensity from a thermal stimuli while performing slow breathing techniques.¹ The health group did notice more pain reduction than the fibromyalgia group, most likely due to the chronic pain associated with the condition. Please follow the instructions below for equal ratio breath, the pranayama technique I used for my own pain management.
Equal Ratio Breath
- Begin to breathe in and out through the nose, initially just observing your natural breathing pattern for a few moments.
- Allow your breath to expand deep into your belly with each inhale and begin counting how many seconds you are taking to breathe in and out.
- Try to adjust your breath so both take the same amount of time. Once comfortable, try to add another second onto each inhale or exhale. Try for a count of 6, 7 or 8. Continue for 5-15 minutes.
TIP: Be sure to choose a duration that is slow, but comfortable. You should experience no tension or discomfort.
- Zautra A. J. et al. (2010). The effects of slow breathing on affective responses to pain stimuli: An experimental study. Pain. 149: 12-18.