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Breathing for Health with Biofeedback by Dr. Erik Peper

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Mindgrowth. Book and audio program designed by Eric Peper PhD to help learn effortless diaghramatic breathing.
  • Easy breathing is the key to letting go of fear and anxiety
  • Learn "diaphragmatic" breathing to enhance your mental and physical performance
  • Use innovative breathing and visualization techniques to improve your concentration and health
With this audio program you will learn:
Easy breathing is the key to letting go of fear and anxiety.
Learn "diaphragmatic" breathing to enhance your mental and physical performance.
Use innovative breathing and visualization techniques to improve your concentration and health.


Breathing is an essential process for human life. Breath patterns influence our physiology, our psychological state and our unconscious. We are, however, most often unaware of our breathing.

Breath patterns contribute significantly to health and illness. Learning to breath slowly and effortlessly enhances our health and sense of well-being. This CD focuses on teaching slow diaphragmatic breathing and on generalizing that skill into all our activities. The exercises in these tapes were developed from the San Francisco State University Diaphragmatic Breathing protocol, the companion training manual, Breathe In, Breathe Out (Peper and Roland, Plenum) and computer biofeedback protocol (Peper and Smith) Easy Breathing.

This CDs have been designed to explain the importance of breathing and teach effortless diaphragmatic breathing. The CD includes instructions to recognize and transform unhealthy breathing patterns. The guided exercises will enable you to become quiet and relaxed, control stress, enhance wellness, and optimize performance.

Because breath reflects both your emotional and physical state, quieting your breath will soothe your emotions and mental processes and quiet your physiological state. Many performers, including athletes and musicians, use diaphragmatic breathing as an essential part of their training to perform at a peak level. Diaphragmatic breathing will affect all areas of your life, some subtle and some very obvious.


The Physiology of Breathing

Breathing is a natural process which occurs without conscious control. Babies and young children breathe effortlessly. Most of the movement associated with their breathing occurs primarily in the lower abdominal area. As they exhale, their abdomen expand outward and to the sides. Most adults, however, no longer breathe in this healthy pattern. Instead, they hold their stomach rigid or slack and use a significant amount of upper body muscular activity to inhale.

The major muscle involved in proper breathing is called the diaphragm. This is a dome shaped muscle located beneath the ribs and above the stomach. In order to inhale, the diaphragm tightens and flattens. This activity displaces the liquid contents of the abdomen and thereby creates a larger space in the chest. As this space is created, the pressure in the atmosphere exceeds the pressure in the chest and air flows in to balance these pressures out.

To exhale, the diaphragm must relax and be raised upward, compressing the air in the chest and allowing the air to be expired. Thus, inhalation requires that the abdominal area to relax and expand, while exhalation requires the abdominal area to decrease in diameter. The chest and shoulders should stay relaxed throughout the breathing cycle.

Dysfunctional (Unhealthy) Breathing Patterns

There are two major breath patterns which are associated with a sense of breathlessness and/or illness, thoracic breathing and hyperventilation. Both patterns occur with episodic breath holding. These patterns may be very obvious or quite subtle. Even the subtle forms, however, can be deleterious to health.

The first pattern, thoracic breathing includes shallow breathing punctuated by breath holding or gasping. This unconscious pattern involves the alarm and startle reactions. This means that the abdomen tightens and the person inhales into the upper chest. The physiological effects of this pattern include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, gastro-intestinal distress symptoms, asthmatic symptoms and neck and shoulder tension. Habitually breathing in this pattern fosters illness.

The second pattern, hyperventilation is characterized by rapid, shallow breathing punctuated by frequent sighs. When one hyperventilates, too much carbon dioxide (CO2) is expired, and increases the alkalinity of the blood. Anxiety, phobia, dizziness and hyperventilation are all associated with hyperventilation. One commonly thinks of hyper-ventilation as an acute and very noticeable state. However, hyperventilation is often subtle and chronic.

Advantage of Diaphragmatic Breathing and Disadvantages of Thoracic Breathing

All our physiological processes are controlled by the nervous system. One branch of the nervous system, called the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), is strongly affected by how we breathe. When we breathe rapidly, shallowly, and in our chests (thoracically), the sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. This results in increased heart rate and blood pressure, cool hands and feet, sweaty palms and other symptoms. People who habitually breathe this way may experience a sense of panic, symptoms associated with hyperventilation, and even an increased risk of heart attacks.

Slow diaphragmatic breathing, on the other hand, decreases the sympathetic nervous system activity and encourages regeneration. Slow diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to reduce the occurrence of a coronary event in people who have already suffered a heart attack. (van Dixhoorn et al, 1987). It also results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate, warm hands and feet, a decreased sweat response and a general sense of relaxation and wellbeing.

The Alarm Reaction

Emotions have a profound effect on breath patterns. When we are startled, we often gasp and/or hold our breath. The startle or alarm reaction then leads to increased sympathetic nervous system arousal and all the physiological stimulation.

Often just imagining a stressful situation has a profound effect on breath patterns. It is common for the inhalation volume to decrease significantly and for the breathing to become more rapid and shallow when one imagines a stressful situation. This pattern mirrors the effect on the breath when one exhibits the alarm reaction in an actual stressful situation.

Breathing While Lying Down vs. Sitting Up

The muscular efforts involved in breathing are different depending on whether you are lying down or sitting up. When you are lying down on your back gravity acts to push the abdomen in. Therefore, when you inhale the diaphragm tightens which pushes the abdomen outward. This is perceived as effort. Exhaling is effortless because gravity pushes the abdomen down and thereby pushes the diaphragm upward into the chest.

When you are sitting or standing, a slight effort is required to pull the abdomen in so that the diaphragm is pushed back up at the end of the exhalation. Inhalation in the vertical position is effortless since you just relax the abdominal wall and allow the diaphragm to go down.


There are many exercises throughout the CDs that will help you learn and practice slow diaphragmatic breathing. After listening to CD one, begin by practicing the following exercise.

Lie down on your back on a comfortable surface. Place a book on your abdomen, near your bellybutton. As you inhale, allow your stomach to push against the weight of the book. The book should lift with the inhalation. As you exhale, allow the pressure of the book to push your stomach in. Continue to exhale and let your stomach fall until you have expired the air. Repeat for ten minutes. Allow the air to flow evenly and slowly. Be sure you observe the book rising and the abdomen expanding during inhalation and the book sinking and the abdomen decreasing during exhalation. Allow this breathing to go slowly. You may observe this at the breathing rate decreases (breaths per minute). If your attention drifts, bring it back to observing the breath and the movement of the abdomen. As you practice this slow breathing, record your observations on the daily logs provided. Observe how over time your skill improves in breathing slowly and effortlessly. Observe also how your attention and mindfulness is becoming trained, a skill which is applicable in all phase of our lives. This slow breathing encourages regeneration.



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