Archive for the ‘health and wellbeing’ Category

For years, I had no interest in yoga.

Then, around four and a half years ago, I gave up smoking.  Shortly after, I heard about abdominal breathing and practised it on and off.

More recently, I learnt about Coherent Breathing, a breathing technique that centres around a person taking equal breaths (inhale, exhale) at around 6 or 5 breaths a minute, ideally 5. About a month later, I started Resistance Breathing (sometimes known as Ocean Breath).

Finally, three weeks ago, I began practising simple yoga moves.

Three weeks on, I’ve noticed a substantial improvement in lower back stiffness, left shoulder stiffness and a throbbing Achilles Tendon.


I look forward to learning new postures and movements and seeing further improvements in health.








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I’ve found little time to blog recently. Life always presents demands.   Personal time. Studies. Work. Creative writing. Playing the piano.

And the Christmas period, of course.

Recently, I read The Healing Power of the Breath by Dr Richard Brown, a psychiatrist. The book explores the power of the correct breathing and how certain exercises can help people suffering with severe conditions, such as PTSD. The key to the exercises seems to like in Coherent Breathing – a technique intended to bring breathing and heart rate into sync, thereby improving the Heart Rate Variability (quite heady stuff). The book also comes with a CD – crucial, in my opinion.

Normally sceptical of self-help books, I found this one interesting and uplifting. The author, along with his co-author, writes sensitively, explaining the basic scientific principles when necessary. The authors supply the keys for improved health, mentally and physically – without the need to buy anything further.

Well worth a read.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the Coherent Breathing exercise, along with a special humming breath technique I’ve adapted.  Hopefully, these will keep me relaxed during the stresses of the coming week.

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I haven’t blogged much recently.  After finishing a major piece of writing – crime fiction –  and returning to work, I needed a break of sorts.  I’ve been polishing my piano repertoire with Mozart, Chopin and Liszt, and practising my four languages.

I’ve also found time to deepen my interest in breathing.  I first became curious during a stint of CBT, during which the practitioner gave me a book and CD that included various exercises.  At the time, I was still smoking – quite heavily, in fact – and I had a high rate of breaths per minutes, roughly 16/17.

Four years on, my breathing rate has dropped to 10 or 11, and I feel much calmer.  Quitting smoking played a crucial role in this, but so has abdominal breathing.

I don’t feel qualified to make suggestions about which breathing exercises people should attempt – but clearly simple breathing techniques done in a relaxed manner should benefit most people.  Obviously, anyone with a medical condition should check first, but generally there’s something for everyone.

Just a few of my thoughts.

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I’ve reached that point again – polishing a novel, sending it out and waiting to hear the outcome. In the meantime, I’m trying to relax. By that, I mean paying close attention to my breathing, slowing it, allowing the breath to take on its own natural rhythm.

Diaphragmatic breathing.

I’ve read lots about it. Apparently, the improved breathing rate has a wide range of positive effects on a person’s health and nervous system. There are many articles on the internet and in popular magazines, but I do wonder whether the reader needs to take more care and critically evaluate some of the claims. For instance – how safe is it for the average person to alter their breathing rate without any supervision or professional advice? Can it, in fact, do more harm than good? I always hunt for the science behind the breathing technique – and if I can’t find any science to back up the claims, I give the technique a miss.

At the moment, I’m experimenting with Coherent Breathing – a technique that involves the person breathing in through the nose for six seconds, then out for the same duration, creating a sense of balance or symmetry.

Personally, I’ve found simple breathing techniques beneficial – for example, four in, eight out. Obviously, the breather would need to build up to the longer exhalations/pauses; plus she or he would have to avoid air hunger at all costs, as that would defeat the object of the exercise. So, always read the science and make sure the breathing technique will not exacerbate an existing medical condition (crucial!) – and enjoy.

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Today marks my fourth year anniversary of giving up smoking. At times, particularly three or four months in, I didn’t think I would make it, but I can truthfully say I haven’t smoked any cigarettes, or attempted to, in the last four years.

Before then, I had tried to stop many times, but failed.

So what was different this time?

  1. A proper reason for wanting to quit – in this case, a true lung age test gave a disastrous result, enough to force me to face the damage caused from years of smoking
  2. Help from Nicorette products.

I pay close attention to the fact that “just one cigarette” usually leads to another, and then another, and so on, until the ex-smoker has taken up the habit again. In other words, no cigarette is safe for an ex-smoker – a case of, don’t do it.

Looking forward to many more years of not smoking.

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It’s that time of year again, another milestone on the road of the ex-smoker. After smoking and chain-smoking for more than two decades, I gave up three and a half years ago and have not smoked since, apart from in my dreams occasionally.

Like many ex-smokers, I took up smoking in my early teens, despite having found the odd puff of cigarette disgusting before then.  Within eighteen months, I’d become addicted. The addiction spiralled out of control over the next couple of decades.  In fact, I smoked during several bouts of flu and pneumonia. Often, the cigarette would cause me to cough so harshly, I’d nearly pass out.  When this happened, I would throw myself into a horizontal position to prevent myself from losing consciousness.

Just over three and a half years ago, one of the practice team at my local surgery phoned to challenge me to quit smoking.  At first, I became defensive.

Then, a simple test to ascertain my true lung age revealed that I had the lungs of a man thirty years older than my actual age; this has since dropped, fortunately. I think the true lung age test finally did it for me.  About a fortnight later, I smoked my last cigarette.

Professionals and ex-smokers can have conflicting opinions on whether people should quiet cold turkey or with an aid like Nicorette. I definitely belong in the second group.  I think too many smokers relapse, especially when they get overly stressed or attend social events – so in my opinion, carrying a small amount of Nicorette around can’t possibly do any harm.

What other things have I learnt during my time as an ex-smoker?

a) The majority of ex-smokers can’t smoker just one cigarette, then give up again (a common temptation). The one cigarette will often lead the person back to regular, heavy smoking.

b) As giving up smoking means never smoking another cigarette, the ex-smoker must have a strong reason for quitting.  In my case, the true lung age test revealed how much damage smoking had caused me, enough to propel me to make the decision to stop.

Just a few more of my thoughts.









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I dislocated my knee in the summer, see post.  Afterwards, I tried to keep as busy as possible, aware that inactivity will make an injury like this worse.  A couple of months on, I visited a physiotherapist.  And this weekend, I managed to run up five flights of stairs, no problems!

On with the exercises.



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