Let’s switch gears today. After 3 weeks of daily blogging on LS, I’ve covered:
- What is lichen sclerosus?
- Who gets lichen sclerosus?
- What are the symptoms of lichen sclerosus?
- What causes lichen sclerosus?
- What is the treatment for lichen sclerosus?
- Gluten-free , dairy-free and sugar-free, along with oxalates, histamines, intermittent fasting and the LS diet
- Trauma, stress, pelvic floor therapy and mental health
- I’ve even covered vaginal atrophy and bowel problems
Whew! It’s been quite the fast-paced journey… and time to take a breath. Literally.
So, how does breath affect lichen sclerosus?
If you’ve been here a while, you know that I’ve spent the past 13 years exploring complementary alternative modalities to help heal my spine. Well, it started out that way. Eventually, I became fascinated by the mind/body/spirit connection… particularly breath.
I taught meditation for years and heard many women complain how difficult they found it to meditate. Meditation can feel challenging and there is a simple solution:
The gateway to meditation is breath.
Diaphragmatic breathing is relaxing and therapeutic, reduces stress, and is a fundamental procedure of Pranayama Yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other meditation practices. Analysis of oxidative stress levels in people who meditate indicated that meditation correlates with lower oxidative stress levels, lower cortisol levels and higher melatonin levels. 1National Library of Medicine
You caught that, right? “…meditation correlates with lower oxidative stress levels”. In Lichen sclerosus and stress, I talk about the role of oxidative stress with regard to LS and mention the vitamins that are reported to help, but what about breath? What if a daily breath practice lowers your OS levels?
Breath is powerful… and available in every moment. It’s also free!
Breath practice is flexible. It fits into your schedule. You could choose a daily 20-minute practice and/or do 1 minute of breathing practice every hour throughout your day. I have a favourite morning practice and then when my mind gets too busy during the day, I take a breathing break.
One of the simplest breaths to learn is belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. And it’s great to do with kids! According to the Cleveland Clinic:
Diaphragmatic breathing offers several benefits to your body, including:
- Helping you relax.
- Improving muscle function during exercises and preventing strain.
- Increasing how much oxygen is in your blood.
- Making it easier for your body to release gas waste from your lungs.
- Reducing blood pressure.
- Reducing heart rate. 2
If you’re not familiar with belly breathing, the article provides instructions:
To perform this exercise while sitting in a chair:
- Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves out against your hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible.
- Tighten your stomach muscles, so that your stomach moves back in, as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your upper chest must remain as still as possible. 3
For years, I taught alternate nostril breathing. I wrote about my experience with this breathing practice called nadi shodhana in my memoir. I practiced it 11 minutes daily for a year. It had a profound effect on my mental/physical health. Though it took a while for 11 minutes to not feel like an hour. 😉 I include it as a core practice in the book Nourish: Ayurveda-inspired 21-day Detox.
In the post on Lichen sclerosus and pelvic floor therapy, you discover the importance of adding a great PF therapist to your support team. Well, look what I just found…
Breath control or pranayama (breathing methods) have long been used in yoga and can be used to downregulate the nervous system. Abdominal-Diaphragmatic breathing and Alternate Nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana) can both be used to decrease tension in the pelvic floor. 4Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Yet another reason to commit to a breath practice for LS. Honestly, between increased anxiety, worry, often sleeplessness and oxidative stress, switching into parasympathetic mode (rest and digest) through breathing practice offers a boon of benefits for those with LS. And a wellness practice for life.
I often hear women say they don’t have time in their day to meditate or create a breath practice. How about 1 minute? Let’s breathe together. Take your 1-minute breathing break now with this guided video.
Of course, if you can create 10-30 minutes each day to allow yourself to really sink into a practice, I believe you’ll find the benefits increase.
Put on relaxing music, close your eyes and practice 5 minutes of belly breathing… allow the shoulders to drop and the breath to deepen as you practice.
My guess is, you’ll feel so good after that you’ll create the time each day. Try belly breathing lying down with a pillow under the back of your knees. Sink into your bed or the floor, wherever you practice. Inhale. Exhale. Soooooooo nice.
Read the next post in the series: Lichen sclerosus and cancer
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**This blog is meant to inform, not diagnose or treat specific health conditions. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always consult your doctor or health care practitioner.