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3 Simple Breathing Exercises That Ease Hot Flashes
Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth and touch the ridge between your teeth and palate. Breathe in through your nose and out through pursed lips, filling and emptying your lungs with air as if you were pouring wine into and out of a carafe. On your inhale, slowly count to 4, filling the bottom of your lungs with air; on your exhale, slowly count to 4 again, filling the top of your lungs with air. At the bottom of your exhale, hold your breath for a count of 6. Repeat this breathing pattern a minimum of 4 times and a maximum of 8, aiming for 2 to 4 minutes total. And don't forget to keep the tip of your tongue placed on that ridge between your teeth and palate, says Goodman: "When you do this, it is impossible to think, and keeping the mind free from thoughts is at the heart of mindfulness-based stress reduction breathing techniques," he says.
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This ancient Buddhist meditation involves 4 to 5 minutes of breath meditation. In this exercise, the goal is to place your attention on the small area between your nostrils and upper lip. Simply breathe normally, in and out through your nose, and pay close attention to every sensation in this small area. "Feel the breath passing through this area, maybe stirring nose hairs, feeling a bit cooler going in and warmer exiting," says Goodman. Continue breathing this way, simply noticing other sensations you might be experiencing only in this one, tiny area, and watching those sensations pass as quickly as they came. "If you feel your attention wander, chuckle at your 'monkey mind' and return your attention to that one small area under your nose and above your lip. Do this breathing meditation for a minimum of 5 minutes, or as long as you'd like until you feel deeply relaxed. The best part? You can do this anywhere, says Goodman. "Nobody will know you're 'meditating,'" he says.
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NAMS recommends this technique as a first line therapy for women with menopausal hot flashes, says Constance Young, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center. Paced respiration is a slow, deliberate deep breathing exercise sustained for a specific period of time. The target: To take a total of 6 to 8 breaths per minute. That's a lot tougher than it might sound, says Young. "For this to be effective, women should commit to two 15-minute practice sessions per day, and then apply the breathing technique with the onset of each hot flash," she says. Over time, paced respirations can reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. "This represents a safe option for women who are not candidates for hormone replacement therapy, or who cannot take hormones due to a history of breast cancer," adds Young.
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