As pioneering researchers in the field of mind body practices and mental health, Drs. Gerbarg and Brown have researched the ancient traditions, both Eastern and Western, and know what works. They keep it simple–no religion, no deities–just clear breathing instruction easily introduced in a clinical setting or for use at home.
The authors have researched across cultures to find universal practices that they describe in simple language that is easy to follow. The anchor breath upon which other practices are added is Coherent Breathing, an even inhalation and exhalation that slows the breathing rate to five breaths per minute. This simple breath increases heart rate variability and balances the stress-response system.
In each practice, the authors offer trouble shooting tips—what to do if your nose is stuffed up, what if you fall asleep, what if you run out of breath, or what if the practice hurts the throat—so that practice can be adapted to every reader’s circumstance.
The authors suggest a combination of practices that they call “Total Breath.” This practice includes Coherent Breathing, the yoga pranayama Ujjayi, which they call “Resistance Breathing” and “Breath Moving,” an ancient practice from China, which involves visualizing the breath moving through different parts of the body. It’s fascinating to learn that many of these practices were developed independently in Hawaii, and by Russian monks. “Traces of these practices,” say the authors, “have remained as part of the training for elite Russian Special Forces soldiers.”
There are stories of healing in relationship through breath practice, as well as the beneficial impact on the symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. “I came away [from a two-day workshop with the authors] with a sense of being reunited with my life and my loved ones,” says a woman deeply affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. The authors have taken their breathing training, “Breath~Body~Mind” to areas of the world where disaster has struck—the Sudan, first responders to the attack on the World Trade Center and into a clinical setting for those who have suffered from early childhood trauma. Brown and Gerbarg discuss these cases with compassion and insight, often using the patient’s words to describe their positive changes as a result of the breathing.
In addition to the narrative descriptions, the Appendix contains clear charts that indicate how and when to use each practice and the suggested order of practice.
In the CD included with the book. Dr. Brown leads listeners through each exercise. This is a wonderful learning tool that can be used daily to guide your own practice.
For guidance in yoga breathing for mood management, click here.