A few months ago I tried a device called Freespira that is supposed to help with proper breathing. It is actually for people who suffer from Panic Disorder, but can be helpful in general to retrain your body to breath the optimal way. This is a better explanation from their website:
“Freespira is an innovative, FDA-cleared digital therapeutic, clinically proven to reduce or eliminate debilitating panic attack symptoms.
In 2008, a randomized-controlled clinical trial treating panic disorder was published. At one year following the 28-day treatment period, 68% of subjects were panic-free and 93% had significant reductions in panic symptoms. The study also documented high treatment compliance rates, positive changes in respiratory physiology, and strong evidence for safety and tolerability.”
This device is only available in the USA, but I had the privilege to try it in Kuwait with the help of some friends in Chicago. If you are following me on social media (you can do it here), you would have seen me using a tablet that shows you how many breaths you take in a minute and the CO2 levels. These 2 readings help you determine if you are breathing properly or not; for me I had very low CO2 levels and an erratic breathing pattern.
I tried Freespira because I noticed that when I am stressed out the first thing I do is hold my breath, no matter how many breathing sessions I did in yoga, I would automatically go into this defensive breathing pattern. Surprisingly I find that when I run my breathing has a flow to it, but if I strength train I would hold my breath.
So I started my course, and it comes with a coach that I Skyped with on a weekly basis which was a great addition as we also worked on some CBT techniques. All you have to do is put on a cannula that is attached to a respirator, which connects via Bluetooth to the tablet. All is provided by Freespira when they send you the package.
You start off at 13 breaths per minute and try to keep your CO2 level between a range of 38 and 42, there is a guiding sound to help you keep it there. The session has 3 phases:
Phase 1- Detecting your own breathing (2 minutes)
Phase 2- Guided breathing (10 minutes)
Phase 3- Breathing without the tone while trying to maintain the same pattern
You would have to do 2 sessions a day, and although that sounds like a lot of commitment I did find it interesting. Eventually I would do it while working on my computer as I automatically followed the tones. Every week you would drop down the breaths per minute, so you start at 13, then 11, then 9, then 7. Interestingly, I struggled the most with the 9 bpm but very much enjoyed the 7 bpm.
Did it work? Not much for my anxiety, I did feel calmer in general, but in stressful situations I wasn’t reacting differently. On another note, I noticed a big difference in my workouts! My running was much smoother and I found my breathing wasn’t as laboured. I was also sleeping better at night, and after the first month I decided to extend it for another month because it was becoming my meditation.
If you are living in the USA I recommend you look into them (it’s covered by insurance), if not, take a look at a book called The Healing Power of the Breath. Happy reading!