If you've googled anything about blood pressure, you've probably seen the ads for RESPeRATE , the machine that's been shown to lower your blood pressure. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it showed up as a featured ad on this blog post. (Sorry about that.) If you're like me, you've been tempted to buy it. But let's face it: The $300 price tag is pretty steep for what you get: a machine that gives tones to tell you when to breathe and some cheap headphones. Oh, it does have a band that measures how your chest and stomach moves in and out when you breathe.
Research has shown that slowing your breathing to 6-10 breaths per minute can lower your blood pressure. But do you need to spend $300 for a machine to help you? What are some alternatives to using RESPeRATE?
I discovered these podcasts at http://hillphysicians.com/YourHealth/HealthMultimedia/Pages/Podcast.aspx In order to share them with friends, I made a tiny url: http://tinyurl.com/breathing1234 Listen online or download the podcasts entitled "Paced Breathing for Hypertension." These podcasts give you tones to signal when to breathe. They're simple to use and free. If you find yourself getting ahead of the tones, just take a few breaths to get back on track.
You could also try a music CD that has tones to help you breathe. I found this one:
The Slow Deep Breathing Music Album for Yoga, Meditation and Relaxation
The podcasts or CD are a good way to become familiar with the pace of breathing. After using the podcasts, you may wish to try slowing your breathing on your own. That way you can practice breathing exercises anywhere: while waiting for an appointment, at your desk, or (better yet) outdoors in a peaceful setting. Try to make your exhalation a slightly bit longer than your inhalation. From time to time during the session, test your breathing by counting how many breaths you take in one minute.
I find it helps to use a phrase with my breathing. You can do something as simple as counting 1-2-3-4 while breathing in and then count 1-2-3-4-5-6 while breathing out. Or you can use phrases, such as "I am very calm. My body is resting peacefully." or "My blood vessels are opening up. The blood is moving easily."
I like to use an ancient prayer called "The Jesus Prayer" or "The Prayer of the Heart," which was developed by the early Christian monastics as a way to "pray without ceasing." The monks and Orthodox faithful still practice this prayer today. It's simply: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I breathe in while saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God," and I breathe out while saying "Have mercy on me, a sinner." Actually I have found that it works better to make the second phrase a little longer, so I usually say, "Have mercy, have mercy on me, a sinner." I sometimes use a prayer rope, which has knots that you finger with each repetition.
If you are a Christian, I highly recommend the Jesus prayer, because it has been used for centuries as a tool of meditation and devotion in much the same manner. And the monks of Mount Athos are some of the healthiest people on earth.
Of course, you may use a phrase from your own religious tradition or beliefs as well.
I find that when I spend 10 minutes practicing slow breathing, my systolic blood pressure lowers by about 12 points each time. It's gone down as much as 19 points. I've been doing this for several weeks and I seem to be getting lower blood pressure readings overall. Although I am on a small dose of blood pressure medication, I am hoping to be able to reduce or eliminate the medicine in the future. My doctor is fully supportive of my breathing sessions.