Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Breathe Diaphragmatically For Health and Happiness


I think that there are two keys to breathing properly. 1) You want to breathe on long intervals, breathing in for 5-10 seconds and breathing out for 6-12 seconds at a time. 2) You want to breathe at a nearly constant rate during all breathing. It is funny at first to come to understand that there is an unhealthy way to breathe. Breathing with the chest, using the intercostal muscles, promotes fear and anxiety and unfortunately many of us do this habitually. This is known as shallow breathing or thoracic breathing and is strongly associated with anxiety disorders. This constitutes defensive breathing, which sends messages to the brain that the environment is adverse. Most people who breathe shallowly are unaware of the condition and do it throughout the day.

Breathing with the diaphragm is a natural way to ensure that you are taking in just the right amount of air to provide oxygen to your body. On the other hand, defensive, or thoracic breathing allows mammals to constantly adjust the breathing in order to respond to threats. In order to actively respond to a dangerous environment our ancestors had to modulate their breathing before every anticipated threat. In the short run, this would help prepare them for the increased oxygen requirements that they would need for “fight or flight” maneuvers. Sadly, most people live their lives in this mode despite the fact that we are no longer protecting our bodies from predators or club bearing maniacs. Today we constantly use the nervous system’s defensive breathing circuits, and the associated pulmonary musculature despite the fact it isn’t helping us survive. Instead, it actually drains our energy and turns us into nervous wrecks. 

Diaphragmatic breathing uses the diaphragm, a skeletal muscle that extends across the bottom of the rib cage that expands and contracts to fill and empty the lungs. I believe that the diaphragm is programmed to take in just the right amount of air to oxygenate the body, given size and energy requirements of the body. It takes in the precise amount of oxygen needed in a tranquil environment but would fail to respond properly to a wild, hostile environment. The modern world has “tricked” our bodies into thinking that our environment is too stressful to breathe peacefully. It is our responsibility to reverse this.

A number of practices and institutions promote helpful deep-breathing exercises that last a few minutes. Unfortunately, these practices give no guidelines for how to permanently change breathing style. Moreover, the existing advice tells people to breathe deeply, but does not tell them how. They also recommend that people watch their belly rise and fall as they breathe in and out. It is true that during diaphragmatic breathing the belly should expand and deflate. However, if this is the only guideline, people start to simply use their abdominal muscles to mimic this movement without actually breathing diaphragmatically. I think that the key to activating the diaphragm is to breathe at a constant rate as detailed below. Meditation practitioners advocate “focusing on the breath,” without giving any other guidelines. I believe that focusing on the breath is helpful because it allows you to naturally notice when you are breathing very shallowly at a very inconsistent rate. However, we want to go further than this and reprogram our breathing so that we are always breathing deeply at a very consistent rate.

Accomplishing Deep Breathing

You want to breathe in and out on longer intervals. Start by spending 5 to 10 minutes at a time breathing in for 6 seconds and breathing out for 8. As long as you breathe out a little longer than you breathe in you activate the vagus nerve and the body’s relaxation response. You also want to breathe all the way in and all the way out. You will notice that you begin to panic, and your heart speeds up when breathing on longer intervals. This is a crucial part of getting better! You want to feel your heart speed up, and mentally reassure it “Hey, there is nothing wrong, I am just taking deeper breaths.” As you breathe on longer and longer intervals, your heart will try to warn you that what you are doing is dangerous. It assumes that you are ignoring the hostilities of your environment and your nervous system is afraid that you are overriding its own defense mechanisms. As you calmly and assuredly breathe through these little bursts of panic, you heal yourself. This exercise makes it so that the next time a mild stressor threatens to impinge on your breathing, you are able to breathe through it, without prematurely interrupting the inhalation of exhalation that you are taking. The best way to practice this is using a breathing metronome. These are easy to download for your phone as a mobile breathing app, such as “Breath2Relax.” I use the app every morning when I wake, every night before I go to bed and while driving. Regular use will reprogram your breathing, and with it your life.

Accomplishing A Constant Rate of Breathing

You want to breathe at nearly a constant rate throughout each breath. At some point, I realized that breathing on longer intervals wasn’t enough. I was breathing at 10-15 second intervals, but around 5 seconds, my rate of inhalation or exhalation would quickly decrease without me even noticing it. I started to realize that breathing through the nose, and hearing the breath constantly flow through the nasal cavity was relaxing but I didn’t know why. Buddhist and Hindu practices emphasize breathing through the back of the throat, and this accomplishes the same thing. Meditators concentrate on the “ha” or “so” sound. Creating an even sound throughout the breath actually ensures that the breath is being taken at an even rate. Just think, from a mechanistic perspective, there should be a single most effective, most energy efficient rate. In fact, if your rate changes it is probably a response to a negative thought. Don’t let it change. Imagine that each second you are taking in the exact same volume of air – throughout the breath. The best way to do this is to breathe through the nose (or through a constricted throat) so that you can hear each breath (even if very faintly). Focus on maintaining the same exact sound from the beginning of each inhalation/exhalation, all the way to the end.

To read more about defensive breathing, the biology, and to learn other breathing practices that I have developed, click here: http://www.observedimpulse.com/2012/11/program-yourself-to-breathe-more-deeply.html

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Marvel and DC Lego Minifigure Collection and Diorama

Here are some pictures of a comic book Lego minifigure diorama that I made over the last few months. I was so excited that Lego started producing sets with my favorite heroes in them, starting in 2012, that I just had to collect them. To start to understand what possessed me to do this read here. What follows are pictures from the display that is split between the Marvel universe and the DC universe. There is a link to a video and a list of the included minifigs below.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx26U8REOA8

Click on one of these pictures to see a larger image and open the "photo viewer."





Marvel vs. DC

Thanos and the Infinity Gems


The Avengers and Stark Industries


The Avengers Roster



Spiderman and Enemies


The Punisher Shoot Out


X-Men and Enemies


Power Man, and Iron Fist vs. the Hand in Japan
Marvel Space Scene
X-men Danger Room


Stark Arcade Emporium
Superman, Brainiac, Luthor and Zod



DC Rogues Gallery



The Justice League


The Batcave


Teen Titans and Young Justice



The Lanterns


Gotham City Bank Shootout



Shazam, Black Adam and Faucet City Subway



Arkham Asylum

Smallville with Lois and Clark 


























Minifigures Included in the Diorama:

Marvel Universe:

Adam Warlock

Aldrich Killian

Ant Man

Archangel

Ares

Aunt May

Beast

Beetle

Black Panther

Black Suit Spiderman

Bruce Banner

Bulls Eye

Captain America

Captain Britain

Carnage

Colossus

Cyclops

Daken

Daredevil

Dazzler

Deadpool

Dr. Doom

Dr. Octopus

Dr. Strange

Electra 

Emma Frost

Extremis Soldier

Fantomex

Firestar

Forge

Gambit

Ghost Rider

Giant Man

Green Phoenix

Gwen Stacy

Hawkeye

Hobgoblin

Hulk

Human Torch

Hydra Agent

Iceman

Invisible Woman

Iron Fist

Iron Man

Iron Man mark 5

Iron Patriot

J Jonah Jameson

Jean Grey

Juggernaut

Kronos

Lizard

Loki

Luke Cage

Magneto

Mandarin

Mary Jane Watson

Miles Morales

Moonstone

Mr. Fantastic

Ms Marvel

Multiple Man

Mysterio

Nick Fury

Nightcrawler

Pepper Potts

Pheonix

Power Man

Psylocke

Punisher

Quicksilver

Red She Hulk

Red Skull

Rescue

Rhino

Rogue

Sabertooth

Scarlet Spider

Scarlet Spiderman

Scarlet Witch

Sentry

Shadowcat

She Hulk

Shocker

Spider Woman

Spiderman

Spiderman 2099

Spiderwoman

Storm

Task Master

Thanos

Thing

Thor

Tigra

Tony Stark

Venom

Vision

War Machine

Wasp

Wasp

Weapon X

Whiplash

White Tiger

Wolverine



DC Universe:

Alfred

Aqua Lad

Aqua Man

Atrocitus

Azrael

Bane

Batgirl

Batman

Batman Electro Suit

Bizarro

Black Adam

Black Canary

Black Hand

Black Lantern Superman

Black Lightning

Black Manta

Black Mask

Blue Beetle (Dan Garrett)

Blue Beetle (Jamie Reyes)

Blue Lantern St. Walker

Brainiac

Bronze Tiger

Cat Woman

Cheetah

Clark Kent

Connor

Cyborg Superman

Damian Wayne

Deadshot

Deathstorm

Deathstroke

Dr. Fate

Faora

Firestorm

Gorilla Grodd

Green Arrow

Green Lantern (Guy Gardner)

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

Green Lantern (John Stewart)

Grey Ghost

Guardian of the Universe

Harleen Quinzel

Harley Quinn

Hugo Strange

Huntress

Hush

Jim Gordon

Joker

Jor-El

KG Beast

Kid Flash

Killer Croc

Kilowog

Lantern Guardian

Lex Luthor

Lois Lane

Manbat

Martian Manhunter

Mr. Freeze

Mr. Mind

Ms Martian

Nightwing

Penguin

Plastic Man

Poison Ivy

Powergirl

Red Hood

Red Tornado

Riddler

Robin (Dick Grayson)

Robin (Jason Todd)

Robin (Tim Drake)

Shazam

Sinestro

Soloman Grundy

Starfire

Starman

Superboy

Supergirl

Tor-An

Undead Superman

Vacation Joker

Wonder Woman

Zatanna

Zod

Zoom

Zsasz



Characters featured in the Pictures:

Marvel Universe:

Abomination

Absorbing Man

Annihilus

Apocalypse

Arcade

Attuma

Beta Ray Bill

Beyonder

Black Bolt

Brood

Cable

Cameron Hodge

Captain Universe

Celestials

Champion

Champion

Collector

Count Nefaria

Cross Bones

Crossbones

Darkhawk

Death

Death’s Head

Deathlok

Dormammu

Dread Knight

Ego

Electro

Galactus

Gardener

Giant Man

Grandmaster

Grim Reaper

Hercules

Hyperion

Impossible Man

In-Betweener

Jubilee

Kang

Kingpin

Korvac

Kraven

Kraven

Leader

Living Tribunal

Lord Chaos

Mad Thinker

Madeline Pryor

Mar-vell

Master Order

Mephisto

Microchip

Modok

Mojo

Mojo

Molecule Man

Moleman

Mr. Sinister

Namor

Polaris

Professor X

Purple Man

Quasar

Quasar

Red Hulk

Ronen the Accuser

Runner

Sandman

Sandman

Sauron

Scorpion

Sebastian Shaw

Sentinel

Shatterstar

Silver Surfer

Skrulls

Solo

Stranger

Toad

Uatu the Watcher

Ultron

Vulture

Wizard

Yellow Jacket





DC Universe:


Adam Strange

Amazo

Anti-Monitor

Atom

Atom Smasher

Atomic Skull

Batmite

Beast Boy

Booster Gold

Captain Cold

Ch’p

Clayface

Darkseid

Deadman

Desaad

Despero

Doomsday

Dr. Light

Dr. Polaris,

Dr. Sivanna

Eclipso

Etrigan

Extant

Hawkman

Imperiex

Krypto

Larfleeze

Lord Havok

Mad Hatter

Mary Marvel

Metal Men

Metamorpho

Mongul

Mr. Mind

Mr. Miracle

Mxyzptlk

Obsidian

Parallax

Parasite

Phantom Stranger

Raven

Scarface and the Ventriloquist

Star Sapphire

Starro

Toyman

Zuggernaut