Common steps and sub-activities
Paced respiration is a form of controlled breathing and is yet one more method of inhaling and exhaling at a predetermined rate. It is used principally as a medical technique and has been shown to help with anxiety and stress, panic attacks and tension. The objective is to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system.
The objective of paced breathing is to slow the rate of breathing. The therapists use instruments or metronomes or similar to cue the ‘patients’ rather than the breathing being self pacing.
The Respiratory system in applied psychophysiology – Richard Gevirtz and Mark Schwartz [in Biofeedback ]
In a sample of alcohol-dependent male inpatients with high trait anxiety, Clark and Hirschman (1990) used a 10-minute pacing procedure. This resulted in significantly more reduction of self-reported tension and state anxiety than an attention control procedure. The use of an external cue with tones helped the patients pace themselves better than without it. The external cue was an audiotaped alternation of two tones (800 and 900 hertz) changing every 3 seconds, providing, rate of 10 respiration cycles per minute.
The use of ‘cue’d’ devices, however, clearly has its disadvantages, as each person’s lung capacity will be different and at too fast a pace severe over-ventilation could take place – the opposite of what you are aiming for. This is one technique where the use of biofeedback is thus of great value [see controlled breathing – biofeedback].
There is very little difference between this method and that used for a similar, but differently named yoga technique, but the descriptions have been separated simply because the yoga technique is taught in the context of all the other yoga techniques, whereas paced breathing is a stand-alone technique. In addition, it is common in the yoga technique to combine the breathing with techniques for befuddling, visualisation and sensory deprivation. For example, the yoga equivalent of this technique can be combined with visualisation of the breath moving up and down your spine.
Paced breathing on the other hand uses none of these approaches – there are instruments, there are metronomes and you sit and do it! The advantage of this technique over the yoga approaches, however, is that it is suited to biofeedback methods and as such helps in training in the approach and also makes the approach much safer.
Being all wired up with biofeedback devices whilst you are attempting to totally relax, visualise silver streams up your back or the kundalini snake, is just too non restful and clinical, but by using this technique initially and letting the instruments tell you of the effects, you can develop a rhythm that is right for you. Once the rhythm has been found you can start to use the yoga technique instead.
Clinical relaxation strategies – Lichstein K L 1988
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