Category Archives: Asthma

My replacement salbutamol


That old friend, asthma came visiting this week. I met someone over the weekend, they said their cold was over and that it had laid them up for 3 days; thanks for the warning. What they had hit me on Monday, today is Thursday and I now feel like I can function now, their 3 days was spot on. Now my wife is enjoying the pleasure or not!

In the past, with a chest infection like I had and it’s still lingering, I would have used some salbutamol to ease my way. Instead I used some thoughts, very particular thoughts. Thoughts of freedom and aliveness with the possibility to move at any moment. This may read as crazy but these thoughts really worked. I did have rasping breath, I was dizzy when I changed from lying to standing, my temperature was hot and then cold however my breathing was free and alive.

I didn’t move my breathing to the top of my lungs like I would have done in the past.

So why is this? If you are like me, my asthmatic response is to really try to breathe with a belief that breathing is best done from the top of my lungs, this is a really bad way to breathe but in those moments it seems so true, it’s the only way.

It’s not!

I’ve had years believing this is the best way in moments of stress or anxiety,

It isn’t!

I know how to breathe without trying to breathe, I do it every night when I’m asleep, perhaps it could happen when I’m awake?

What I did, was to cut off my stimulus to a reaction at the pass. It was highly likely that asthma would visit again if got a chest infection, it did, but I didn’t react in my normal way, this time, I gave asthma space, aliveness with the opportunity of move at any moment.

This takes practice, a few years for me.

Don’t be without your inhaler when you need it.

The freedom and aliveness is not just for the asthma, it is for me firstly then anything want to use freedom and aliveness for. This week it has been for myself to help me breathe with freedom and aliveness. I must say, this is the first time for a heavy cold, it worked, it worked extremely well.

The freedom is trusting that my body will look after itself if I allow the freedom then my body can be alive to do whatever it needs to do. My asthmatic reaction is to tighten my chest and force my breathe, this time I chose my body to be free. This sounds trite but it really does work for me.

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P.S. I was going to put an image of an inhaler but my dogs look a lot better. Harry is the old boy, sadly gone a few years ago, Flint is now the old boy.

P.P.S My wife now knows what man flu is like. It’s real and hurts!

 

 

 

 

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Your boney hollow


One of my previous blogs I wrote about how your lungs function with the aid of your diaphragm and ribs Simply change the volume in your chest cavity. Please read again and perhaps try the breathing experiment.

What I didn’t mention was where you are in space and time when trying the experiment. Hopefully you are sat on a chair, it’s safer on a chair as you may get a little dizzy when experimenting with breathing.

Take a moment to notice how you are sitting, I would recommend that your feet are fully on the ground, if the chair is to high you could use some books or something flat and solid for your feet to rest on. Are you resting your back against the back of the chair, if you are could you just rock forward a little so you pelvis is taking the weight of your upper torso.

If anything I suggest is painful or awkward then please do something else that supports and helps you. 

Now I want you to imaging where your head neck joint is. Nobody is watching so be honest with yourself and point with a finger where you think your head neck joint. Hopefully you where honest with yourself, I want you to learn from not knowing something or your educated guess.

Now I’ll tell you where your head neck joint is;

Put a finger on one of your shoulders and run this finger a long the top of your shoulder to your neck.

Hopefully you will be touching your neck somewhere in the middle, this is roughly where the load bearing part of your neck is. Now run your finger up your neck to under your ear, you have a boney hollow just there. Now repeat with your other hand, on your shoulder, along the front of your shoulder to your neck and then up to the boney hollow under your ear. Between fingers is your head neck joint.

Next time you are using a mirror repeat and have a look.

With your fingers under your ears in the boney hollow, nod and tilt your head to get the experience that your head actually moves and balances from this point.

Can you notice how much freedom you have in your head neck joint?

You may be thinking, why do I need to know this to breathe better?

To improve your use and functioning in anything you do, including breathing, it helps if you are aware of where you are in space and you have an understanding where your joints are and their movement. Some consider that the head neck joint is the most important joint in your body, I do. From this joint and the vertebrae in this area, all nerves, arteries and veins pass to and from your brain to service and support your body in your use. If this are is compressed or constrained in some way then your use and functioning may be impaired.

Now have a thought of distance between your head and the top of your spine, where your fingers are/were. Extend this thought down to the bony part of your pelvis that is resting on the chair. Enjoy this thought, now perhaps repeat the activity in Simply change the volume in your chest cavity with your thoughts of being connected from the top of your head to your pelvis.

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When thinking goes awry


Sometimes I don’t want to walk my dogs, lots of excuses, non of them are valid but in the moment they are really true – honest. It’s that moment of getting up and doing something to meet the expectation of others or my dogs that I find difficult to achieve.

The trouble with trying to keep up with someone else’s expectations, I’m doomed to fail; I will be never be quite good enough or that’s what I may think.

So what can be done, instead of trying to satisfy someone else’s expectations, I go for a walk  for myself and the dogs can come as well. It’s their choice to come along if they want. My dogs never say no so now I have a win – win situation. I’m going for a walk under my rules.

Some where to go, I’m quite fortunate as I can walk out from my house, up a very step hill into the Forest of Dean. Sometimes if I’m not in the mood the hill outside is just too steep so I have other options, dogs in the car and off to somewhere else. My favourite walk, my sanctuary is Soudley Ponds, my dogs love being there as you may have guessed there’s water, my dogs love water, I prefer dogs and water to dogs and mud.

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There’s a good path around the ponds and parking at both ends. At Soudley Ponds I have two walks, the easy one around the ponds, the walk is just under 2 miles so it is a nice distance to reflect and reset my thinking for the day. I return home motivated and eager to get on with the day.

If I want a challenging walk there’s a step hill up to Blaize Bailey  (a link to google maps) there’s a view point which looks over the River Severn, it’s just a beautiful view. Perhaps a blog about the Blaize Bailey walk later.

I use my walks to reset myself, consider if all those urgent things are really urgent, perhaps decide to tackle a few of those things I love to procrastinate about. I always find them so simple once I get started and a great relief once they are completed.

Have you ever wondered how we do things, a thought and it happens. Keeping it very simple, we think and something happens, for example, at the moment I’m having thoughts about what to write, I translate these non verbal thoughts into verbal thoughts, formulate a sentence then change these verbalised thoughts into muscular activity so my fingers can move around my keyboard to produce these words. We do this all the time and it’s amazing how with just a thought things happen.

Sometimes this simple thinking can get awry, a few years ago I wouldn’t have dared to walk a few hundred yards without my trusty inhaler, yes I suffered from asthma, or as I like to think nowadays my thinking had gone awry. I was stuck in the freeze mode of the fear reflex. The fear relex is wonderful for freezing when hiding when being chased or being quiet ready to pounce on prey but not if it’s held for weeks, months and years.

I did years, several miserable years, years I can’t remember.

I just survived.

In the freeze mode I found that I breathed in but not out, there was some breathing else I won’t be here to tell you.

My breathing function reduced to just using the upper part of my lungs, my inhaler helped when things got tough.

I thought my life was set as it was.

However I discovered that my thinking was awry and that I could change my thinking, I needed help to guide me though and time to realise it was possible. So if your breathing is effected by stress, depression, anxiety then from my experience there is help and it’s within you, you may be like me and need help to find it in yourself and you may be able to find away yourself.

There’s many aspects to understand about your breathing, I found that understanding where my lungs and diaphragm are helped me, it may help you. Also understanding how breathing is semi-automatic; we can control breathing or just let it happen without conscious control. It is this ability to consciously control breathing when fear triggers the fight and flight response.

If you get stuck then your thinking goes awry.

So how to prevent, notice, do something to prevent this thinking, you’ll have to wait or read more in my mailing list; if you live in the Forest we could meet up and enjoy my sanctuary, Soudley Ponds?

The trouble with trying to keep up with someone else’s expectations, I’m doomed to fail; I will be never be quite good enough or that’s what I may think. Again this is thinking gone awry.

Do terrible 2’s always change to angry adults


Do you know I get really angry with some people, they just won’t listen. Some of these people have never even seen me, we have never physically met nor communicated in any way  but they still make me angry.

Does this sound familiar? Politicians are my favourite to be angry with at the moment.

So if they don’t know me and we have never met how do they know I’m angry with them, it would be good for them to know, as I’m using plenty of angry energy on them. The probability is that they will never know I’m angry with them so why am I being angry with them. I’m guessing they have breached my beliefs, they have gone beyond what I’m comfortable with, someone sometime ago breached my beliefs and I had a tantrum. I don’t know when it was or who it was but my tantrum got the result I wanted. I may have used the tantrum over and over again and it produced the result I wanted. This tantrum was successful so I stored it away with my other habits. Everytime I needed this tantrum it was there for me, being like all habits it likes to survive so after each use it reviews what was successful and what was not, it changes a little, some bits are retired and new bits added, so it it really for the next time.

Over time the tantrum morphs into anger.

Many people will just stay that way, they develop from the terrible 2’s to angry adults, negativity works for them or so they think.

I think negativity doesn’t work as it just makes you ill, it may take many years but will get you eventually.

Negativity generates more negativity, a vicious circle! Wouldn’t it be better to be less angry.

This seem to be my theme over my past few blogs, stop and notice.

Notice what makes you angry, it maybe someones stupidity it maybe what someone says. If you aren’t close enough to challenge them to consider a change, then perhaps you could tone down you response to their stupidity. This takes some practice to notice when you start to be angry, it’s even more difficult to notice that you are going to be angry, noticing those triggers that set off your anger.

I’ve done a few years training to discover these things firstly in myself and then others, my training also taught me some simple skills on how to think differently. If you want to know more you could join my mailing list, it free and you have no commitment to do anything.

 

 

I’m just trying but unfortunately sabotaging myself


I hated using the peak flow meter, it never felt right, I never felt like it was producing the right result.

It is years since I used a peak flow meter as I don’t have asthma anymore, so I can now reflect on why it didn’t produce the right result. I was trying to produce the right result, the instruction or what I thought the instructions were, got me to focus on my breathing and I really tried to exhale. Unfortunately trying to exhale with a good strong exhalation got me doing a host of things that didn’t help me get a good result.

I fixed my diaphragm, I closed my throat, formed a shape in my mouth so that I could blow, I thrusted my stomach out and then was upset with the result.  I discovered that I was holding my breath whilst trying to get a good result on my peak flow meter.

I wasn’t aware back then of what I was doing with my diaphragm, stomach, mouth and throat, it’s only now I can reflect and now mimic myself and understand what I get up to.

I was doing all these things as I thought these were the right things to get a good result. Little did I know, even whilst being observed by various asthma nurses, that I was sabotaging myself.

I wonder if you do these sort of things, perhaps the next time you use your peak flow meter you could look at yourself in a mirror and see what you notice. But first perhaps watch this video to understand what looking in a mirror means. Many people including myself fail to see what you see in a mirror this video really helped me to see myself in a mirror.

My initial interest, if I observed you, is how your neck moved when preparing and when using your peak flow meter. My guess is that you moved your head backwards and your chin went upwards, this will narrow your throat and reduce your peak flow result. Now here’s a catch, your initial obvious thought, I’m guessing now, is not to move your head back but to keep it in the right position, you can try this but my guess is that you will get a similar meter result.

So what will help.

Simply put, by doing nothing, just stop trying to get a good result.

How about just having a fun happy thought, move the meter to your mouth and just blow.

Whilst I’ve been writing this blog I’ve noticed habits that I have when I use the meter, I move my tongue back but his constricts my airway, I raise my shoulders; we generally don’t need our shoulders to breath, I focus on a point just in front of me; we generally don’t need our eyes to breath, I forcefully suck in air to get ready; again we generally don’t need to force ourselves to breath, breathing happens naturally.

These habits I’ve used set my correct position hence best result to use the meter, do I really need them, I don’t think so they don’t work. It’s just trying to be good, just trying to get the best result, just trying but unfortunately sabotaging myself.

I would really recommend that you watch yourself using your peak flow meter and possibly  your inhaler in a mirror.

Notice what you get up to without any self criticism, be kind to yourself. If it hurts stop.

So be kind to yourself

Find a quiet space, either on your own or with someone who supports you

Don’t worry about the rest of the day

Don’t worry about getting a better result.

Breath out and allow yourself to breath in

When your ready use your peak flow meter.

Notice what you do without any self criticism, allow things to change at their own speed and you may notice your breathing will change for the better.

These thoughts worked for me.

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Fancy a walk in the forest


I’ve been thinking for a while how I can help others with what I’ve learnt from Alexander’s discoveries. The truth is, it is probably everyone in the world, that is a little to big for one person – I’ll be worked off my feet!

So I best refine this down a little, my choices are, a geographical region perhaps near where I live or people who enjoy similar activities to me but are struggling to get about to enjoy it, or it could be both.

I love walking but not so long ago asthma restricted how far I could walk, I’m well now without the use of drugs to support me, it was Alexander’s discoveries that let me be free of my breathing difficulties. I don’t know how far I can walk now but I guess it’ll be exhaustion not asthma that will stop me.

Have I narrowed enough to a community that I can help, I don’t know but it would be fun to work with them. A couple of inside workshops and then out for a walk so that they can discover the discoveries in the safety of a room and then practice out in the wilds. Bring your dogs and have more fun, I’ll even supply the tea and coffee, anyone fancy bringing the biscuits?

I’ve identified a venue, the owners don’t know yet. I’ve got a good idea what I want to say for the workshops, I think dogs will have to stay at home for the first few of workshops  as this will give you time to discover a natural way to breathe, this type of breathing is a benefit to all, so if you just get out of breathe on hills it will as well, or out of breathe when running it will also help.

Now I just need to find people who want to come along.

  • Walking magazines
  • Walking Facebook groups
  • Local walking groups
  • Local advertising
  • Doctor referrals

I assume some of these will be better than others and there’s other things I could focus on, any ideas?

I’ll be taking the plunge soon on a series of workshops, anyone in the Forest of Dean interested? Please let me know.

Happy rambling

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The first 5 steps to managing asthma


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I probably do but manage it without medication, so do I really do have asthma?

I don’t really know but I do know that when I get stresses or anxious I notice my chest tightening and I have a shortness of breathe.

Is that asthma, is that like your asthma?  My doctor seems to think so!

I never thought of having asthma, I really didn’t want it; are you like that?

If you’re interested this is what I’ve learnt about managing asthma, this took me a few years, it’s a slow process with many hour practice, keep taking the inhalers.

1. Stop and notice when your asthma rises

Just let it happen as it normally does and take you medication as you normally do, but notice what your thoughts were when you notice your asthma rising.

  • Was something bothering you?
  • Were you about to do something you didn’t want to do?
  • Was something getting awkward?

For the first few times this is probably enough. Remember not to rush, noticing is important, perhaps write a diary of what you were feeling, you may be able to notice a pattern.

2. Do something different

Hopefully you have noticed a pattern; something has bothered you, you have reacted which resulted in your asthma rising. Perhaps you could react differently, not getting vexed or angry, what about having the opposite reaction or just notice you’re being bothered and not reacting, staying neutral. Maybe its worth an experiment to see what happens, remember your inhaler is always available so use it when you need it.

As with step 1, this will take time and you will get it wrong, remember getting thing wrong is a learning experience that you can learn from.

Remember this takes time so don’t rush or put yourself in danger.

3. What are you thinking

Where are you when your asthma rises? This is a time question.

Was it just the thought of doing something stressful. Perhaps you notice that you were thinking into the future, instead could you think about now instead. The future may be less stressful if you think about what is happening now.

This does take practice, notice your surroundings, become interested in something you can  see, hear, smell or touch, just enjoy being here now. Did you notice a change in your asthma rising. Don’t rush anything, and be safe.

4. Let the ground support you

I noticed with my asthma attacks I don’t really know where I was, sort of floating around in a panic and not feeling to well. Perhaps ask yourself if the ground is supporting you, it could be a chair or bed, the thought is that I can feel my weight being supported from the ground, feel nice and heavy.

5. Let my head be light on top of my spine

Now that you can feel your weight being support by the ground perhaps you could have the opposite thought that my head is free to move on top of my neck. This will activate your postural reflex, you may notice a lightness in yourself and your breathing may become a little easier. Remember this all times time and you need to keep working thought the steps starting at 1.

Only practice these steps when it is save to do so and always use your medicine as prescribed.

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Blocked Paths


In the part of the forest where I regularly walk, one of the paths is blocked by a tree, the tree probably blew over in a gale. The paths in the forest had been there for a very long time and have been established by animals and people choosing to walk a similar route. This tree is a particularly beautiful part of the forest, a beech canopy with the sun breaking through, in early May before the bracken appears fields of bluebells that disappear in to the distance.  I walk this path quite a lot, a time to reflect, my dogs to range around having a good time. I’ve been stepping over tree for several months, refusing to walk around it as many others do. Why do I step over the tree trunk, is it because I can, is it because I don’t want it to get in the way of my journey; in the Alexander Technique world this behaviour could be construed as end-gaining, just pushing on regardless and a disregard to my safety.

Perhaps it is safer to walk around but why should I. Perhaps I could use another path in the forest and avoid the fallen tree. I want to enjoy my walk and this is a beautiful part of the forest so I’ve chosen to walk on this path. A conscious decision to face the blocked path as the benefits outweigh the difficulty.

The tree trunk is easy to stride over with little risk but somethings in life may be more risky. Taking time to consider and make a conscious decision to act, sometimes to take that risk, sometimes not, the choice is yours but you can always stop and reconsider.

Perhaps the stopping and reconsidering needs a little more explanation; you can only reconsider if you know what you are doing in the first place, a skill that I’ve been developing for sometime and will be developing for sometime more probably a lifetime of development. Knowing what I’m doing during every moment in my life is taxing and near impossible but tuning up my awareness when it is needed, for example making those important conscious decisions. This awareness takes time to practice and put into operation, for me it’s been years. It’s difficult, upsetting, emotional, fantastic, freeing. Peeling back the blocked paths that stop me from thinking freely, from me being me. It’s a real challenge but worth it.

In the Alexander Technique world this is inhibition, the inhibition of those thoughts and actions that prevent me being really me. Every thought manifests itself onto some form of  physical activity, this is where the Alexander Technique comes into its own, by noticing this physical activity when it happens I can ask myself what was the thought, this takes practice, a lot of practice, I’m the same as you, full of habits that I’m not aware of. The quickest and easiest way to notice these habits it to work with an Alexander Teacher, as was are trained to notice these physical responses and they will be able to help you. For example, if you have asthma you may notice at times of stress you will have greater need of you medication, I certainly was. Over time and working with my Alexander Teacher I learnt to notice the trigger events and instigate a countermeasure to the trigger, early on it didn’t always worked, but slowly I got better at noticing the trigger earlier and earlier and I now control these triggers without medication.

The countermeasure is very powerful and simple, it is to inhibit the trigger by being present, in the here and now, quietening the what if’s, stop worrying about the future. I’ve got little control of the future especially if it involves other people. There’s not many mind readers around and I’m definitely not one.

The Alexander Technique is not just about posture as may people think, it is about thinking and the physical activity from that thought.

 

 

Don’t try this at home


What a lovely Sunday morning, I like Sunday mornings; the doors and windows are open letting the cool fresh morning air into the house, a nice breakfast, tea maybe coffee later, it is quiet, I have room to reflect and think. I want to, have the need to, write but I haven’t a clue what to write, will it be about Jessica Wolf’s workshop at BAS, or further thoughts about how I feel about not being ready to qualify as an Alexander Technique teacher. The later I’m content with, so maybe this is could be about breathing, in fact about just a few moments during the workshop.

As you may be aware, I manage asthma with thought alone by using the Alexander Technique, no more inhalers for me I haven’t used one for a couple of years. This nearly changed on Friday. We were working though the various activities that Jessica was directing, silent ‘la’s’, whispered ‘ah’s’ and counting on our out breath, I’m not going to go in to detail here about these activities as I won’t give them justice. Jessica suggested that for a moment we imagine what poor breathing is like and perhaps attempt some poor breathing. I CAN DO THAT! I just thought of how I used to breathe and a little more poor use on top. It was a bad move, my chest tightened I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t count passed ONE , worst of all it was real and I was stuck with panic, fear and thoughts of how the hell can I get out of this breathing pattern. I didn’t have a clue what to do, I was really stuck in my thinking, old thoughts of trying to do something, just do anything so that I can breathe again. The panic was awful.

I don’t know how long it took, in reality probably a few moments. Luckily we were working in pairs, Jane had her hand on my chest and abdomen to notice my breathing during the various activities. I grabbed her hand, she stayed with me, my breathing returned to something like normal and I cried for a long time, tears are with me as I write. I’m not sure about the tears, are they about sorrow and loss of how I was for so many years, was it the panic I used to feel in just doing simple tasks, was it planning my life around an inhaler, ‘ooh thats’s going to be stressful so time for my inhaler’ My life was so reliant on inhalers, I feel depressed just thinking about is and it’s hard to see the screen with my tears.

Those moments of thought about my old bad use has taken me two days and a little more to get over. This has been a real lesson on the power of thought and how old habits can just reappear, it is also a really good lesson again on the power of thought, that’s conscious constructive control of thought, using indirect methods to help myself to breathe freely again.

The conscious constructive control I’ve learnt over the past few years during my Alexander Technique Lessons and my teacher training so I have the skill to return to breathing freely again. Don’t try this at home else you may be in trouble.

 

My Story


I’ve been thinking that my story begins when I got asthma but it was way before that, years before but that may be another chapter when I’m ready to write it.

This part of my story starts a few hours after a cruise from Southampton to Spain and Portugal and return.

I was just leaving a supermarket, I thought I was relaxed but this woman, I never asked her, thought otherwise. She stopped me offered a sales pamphlet about her Alexander Technique practice and put her hand on my left shoulder. It was something to do with her touch, I immediately felt safe without judgement. She was offering a half price first lesson, the price didn’t matter, I wanted the safety of her hand, I would have paid double. I ended up going for lessons every Friday for over a year. I changed jobs to another area so my lessons stopped, she cried as I left my last lesson.

In hindsight she probably put a lot of emotion effort in to my lessons which I didn’t notice at the time. I guess I did learn a lot over that time as I was an emotionally wreck on the Saturday and happy happy happy on the Sunday after each lesson.

I took a year away from the Alexander Technique, I fought the urge to find another teacher for quite a while but gave in, I was intrigued and wanted to know more, so I found a local teacher and was with her for a few years. I was a reluctant learner, I must have been hard to teach but did recognise changes in me, I was becoming less anxious, my asthma was getting under control but I wanted more hence I started teacher training.

IMG_1901Reviewing my lessons that I had, I never really got that it was a teacher/pupil relationship until late on, I went for the therapeutic experience. I wasn’t ready to learn because I couldn’t stop I just got on and did, my habitual responses were extremely strong and only very recently and that’s into my third year of teacher training that I can control these habits, well most of the time.

I’ve very valid reasons for these habits, they have protected me from the grief of loss of my two children though divorce and very shortly afterward my mother who was the bedrock of my life. This was 17 years ago, I guess I was stuck in a state of fright for all that time. It hurts both mentally and physically and habits get well and truly stuck.

With Alexander’s discovery I’ve managed to get back on track without the need for medicine or counselling.

If you suffer with anxiety I would give Alexander technique a try, but remember it’s a teacher pupil relationship, you are there to learn, don’t waste your valuable time enjoying the therapeutic experience, use the teacher as a catalyst to your happiness. Hopefully you won’t take as long as me to find your freedom and happiness.