NZ Herald: Learning how to breathe easy.

  • 23 August 2010


Gill South learns breathing properly isn’t as easy as she thought and requires serious practice.

“Breathe out!” urges my breathing specialist, Tania Clifton-Smith, whom I have immediately warmed to. Tania runs Breathing Works with Dinah Bradley in Remuera – and wrote an eponymously titled book on the subject with Dr Jim Bartley. I’m here to see her today to see if my breathing techniques have anything to do with my yearly winter aches.

Reading the pamphlet in reception about key indicators of breathing problems, I find some that I think might apply to me. Mind you, I can talk myself into anything when I read a list of symptoms.

In this case, frequent sighing and yawning are definitely me, achy muscles and joints, yes, and feelings of “air hunger” at times. I yawn numerous times during my $140 session and Tania tells me to swallow the yawn because it’s not good for me – “one yawn will drop your CO2 for three minutes” she tells me, which I gather is a bad thing.

She asks me about any Nasal drip I might have in the night. It all begins with the nose, she says.

The big question for me is, do I breathe through my nose and belly (as you should) or through my upper chest? No prizes for guessing, it’s through the chest.

So Tania lies me down on her table and we go through the motions of how to breathe properly – I need re-training – starting with an “Aah” breath out, then a breath in via the nose and the belly, then out the nose, pause and relax all over. And repeat. Of course if you are an opera singer, you are completely on top of this kind of thing but unfortunately I’ve never had the calling.

I trot off with my “homework handout” ready for a week of breathing re-training using the BradCliff Method.

I’ve got to get better at breathing when at rest. She gives me a useful exercise for a journalist – putting the commas and full stops in my sentences will make me pause a bit and breathe more regularly.

Do I go home and practice my new breathing? I’d like to say yes, but instead I rush home and write frantically for two hours to meet a deadline, pick my son up early from school for an ear appointment, drop him home and then go to my evening lecture at AUT until 8pm.

I try hard to do a breathing exercise in bed but I’m asleep before it finishes.

Oh well, definitely don’t have the “disturbed sleep” problem on the symptoms list. And I’m doing my exercises every day now, honest.

Monday Aug 23, 2010 Gill South, NZ Herald

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