My Turn: YMCA course to teach ‘coherent breathing’


Published: 1/20/2020 9:14:38 AM

People suffering with asthma at an early age and living with it throughout adolescence and adulthood can experience extreme hardship, both emotional and physical. I was one of those people. Basketball was my favorite sport as a kid but I had to call time out often during the game to catch my breath. Having asthma as a kid gave me the feeling that there was something wrong with me. The fear of not being able to breathe was traumatic. Emotions like fear and feeling inadequate made my asthma worse.

After years of trying to find a solution to my breathing problem, I’ve discovered techniques that have lessened my asthma symptoms. My wife, Carol, and I will be sharing these techniques at Asthma Camp, a five-week course to be held every Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Greenfield YMCA on Feb. 8, 15, 22, 29, and March 7. Understanding the connection between emotions and disease will be discussed in conjunction with how to breathe with asthma and other major health issues.

Carol and I have learned Coherent Breathing from Richard P. Brown, MD and Patricia Gerbarg, MD, who developed this breathing method. This breath work is intimately connected with our nervous system. By doing this breath work, our nervous system becomes balanced, which creates the correct amount of hormones releasing into the cells, creating good health and well-being.

The process of Coherent Breathing involves breathing through the nose in a slow gentle way, taking four counts on the in breath, and four counts on the out breath. I started doing it for five minutes a day and gradually worked up to 20 minutes a day, which is what Brown and Gerbarg recommend. Dr. Brown says for someone with asthma, “Doing Coherent Breathing every day for nine months will improve lung function 25 to 60 percent.”

Brown and Gerbarg state in their book, “The Healing Power of the Breath,” “Of all the automatic functions of the body, only one can be easily controlled voluntarily — breathing.” Thus, the way one breathes can influence the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, hormonal, glandular and immune systems. This means relieving asthma, lowering blood pressure, relieving anxiety, slowing down the worry centers of the brain, relief for COPD patients, chronic pain, and more.

The five-week course discusses the autonomic nervous system, which has two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The sympathetic is a stress response system and the parasympathetic is the soothing, healing response system. It is the sympathetic system that causes overstimulation of the nervous system. Breathing in this way over long periods of time will cause serious health problems. Coherent Breathing puts the nervous system in the parasympathetic mode and creates calmness in the body. Dr. Brown says “Eighty percent of illness comes from autonomic nervous system dysfunction.”

One important issue when dealing with asthma is medication. Since I began doing Coherent Breathing in October of 2018, I have not needed Albuterol, lessened my dose of Advair and have had no serious asthma problems.

My point is this: Proper medications are very important in asthma treatment but that’s not the whole story. The breathing technique, Coherent Breathing, is also very important and has lessened my asthma symptoms considerably.

Asthma Camp is an opportunity for people of all ages with asthma to lessen their symptoms using Coherent Breathing. Richard Warner, MD says “Asthma Camp can help lessen asthma symptoms.” For more information contact the Greenfield YMCA at 413-773-3646 or call me at 413-834-9041.

The McConnells live in Buckland.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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