You have to make your own choices in life and be responsible for the results; but if you want my recommendations, here is the way I think might be most beneficial. As I said in Chapter one, just plain read through the whole book. Don't expect to learn the material; in fact assume that some of it will be confusing. That is a first run through just to see the scope and the general nature of the work.
Then, when you have read all of it, come back to this chapter and read for understanding (but not memorization) this and the next chapter and start the breathing work. After a few months just with the breathing work, when you have some degree of mastery of the proper breathing cycle, then start the work in Chapter 11 on the forehead and eyes. You now have all you really need for the next, let's say, twelve months. Assuming you have now been at the work for 9 to 12 months, you can re-read Chapters 5 through to the end of the book and pick out some of the more advanced breathing techniques and some of the body exercises.
I need to say it many times for proper emphasis: every one is different. Better too slow than too fast.
This material is life changing. Your motivation to use the material I present is an important part of the process. In time and with experience and practice all this material will be a part of you; but to start with reading everything and trying to master everything at once it is easy to become confused and to forget important parts of the exercises.
Why is it, do you suppose, that every type of self-training emphasizes proper breathing? Proper breathing is emphasized in yoga, in Pilates, in meditation and even in exercise workouts. In general I do not tell you what to expect as a result of the work since I do not want to activate your "should" and "should not" system, I don't want you trying to achieve a particular change in yourself as opposed to letting it develop naturally, organically. But I will tell you some of the changes that freeing your breathing will produce.
While everyone is unique, no single claim is true for everyone, there is in almost all languages a number of phrases which speak to what is controlled in the breathing, in the chest. Here are a few to give you the idea: heart sick, my heart goes out to, aching in the chest, weight on my chest, I can't breathe, puffed up like a frog, a gasp of surprise, swollen with pride, and on it goes. What is the common element? Everything related to love, tenderness, empathy, loneliness, longing and the other related feelings and attitudes.
This work doesn't make you change, it does not make you feel, it allows you to change and to feel. What is now warded off or inhibited is released. What is now prohibited is allowed. The change is in your very nature as a person.
There are some implications of those changes which are not immediately evident.
Number one is that your dreams and fantasies will gradually change. If you are someone who is able to remember dreams, you will find that your dream symbols will change.
Number two is that you will find that you are more sensitive both to yourself and to others. You have more capacity to experience the emotions of the chest. Also you will have flexibility in life to adapt easily to change. How many of us are not set, not stuck, in our ways? Not many. But rigidity is not necessary. The flexibility that you will bring to your breathing with this book will translate into flexibility in life.
Number three is that your experience of sex will change dramatically. This change will not fully occur until you get, in Part Two, to the belly and pelvic exercises; but you may get a taste of the changes with the breathing in Part One.
Number four is that other people will experience you differently. Pride — sometimes valid pride and sometimes phony pride — is experienced in the chest. That is why we can see pride in children. When they are proud of their accomplishments they "swell with pride." With pride comes self-confidence and self-assurance. Others will see these changes before you do; but when you notice the changes it might be socially wise to tell others what you are doing so that they are not confused by the change in your attitude and behavior. Pride, after all, is not just related to the changes in your being, it is also related to your pride in the self-improvement work you are doing, to what you have accomplished by your efforts at self-change.
The bible is all over the place on pride, but here is what I mean:
"Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house" (Mat. 5,15).
Just because it is so important to the work I repeat here that after each work session you should do a sense-and-feel report session. Even though you just read it, go back now to POST EXERCISE SENSING AND FEELING on page 21 and re-read it.
Proper deep breathing is at the heart of the process.
First, I want to correct one frequent misconception. It is almost universally believed that deep breathing will increase the oxygen in your body. That is not correct.
Your blood at all times is 98% to 99% saturated with oxygen when it leaves the lungs. What does happen with deep breathing is that the carbon dioxide in your body is decreased. This decrease in carbon dioxide has a host of effects on the body.
Not only does deep breathing not increase oxygen, in fact it has the opposite effect. Because of the changes in the blood brought on by the decrease in carbon dioxide, the blood flow to the cortex of the brain is decreased by 30% to 50%.
This deep breathing is called, hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is central to many techniques of body work even though most of them do not acknowledge that they are actually using the body's mechanism of hyperventilation. Even writers on body-based psychotherapy invent other names for what they are doing. Reich called it orgone. Lowen called it bio-electricity, Kelly called it Radix. Yoga calls it prana. Deep breathing, all by itself, does not inherently produce hyperventilation, it is also a matter of the speed of the breathing. For those among my readers who are medically oriented, hyperventilation is defined operationally as the pCO2 being below a particular level.
Footnote 11. This reduction is caused by local constriction of the arteries in the brain. The reduction effect has been known for decades, but the recent advent of fMRI has allowed its more accurate measurement. While blood flow and thus oxygen is materially reduced, the metabolism of the brain (that is, its use of glucose) is unchanged. Just like an over-used muscle, the brain then locally produces lactic acid. There is a some data suggesting that the major effect of this reduction in oxygen is on the production of and response to the neuro-transmitter: GABA. This data, if verified by subsequent study, would explain the increase in emotion seen in hyperventilation.
In a manner of speaking, hyperventilation is the foundation of body-based psychotherapy (including Reichian therapy). The effects of hyperventilation (see following table) explains most of what is observed in sessions. Obviously, hyperventilation alone is not sufficient to change the character. If hyperventilation alone were effective (without the exercises, the pressure, and the cognitive work) then it would be the universal technique of all psychotherapy. Hyperventilation is a base, but a base upon which body-based psychotherapy is the superstructure.
In addition to the reduction of blood flow and thus oxygen to the cortex of the brain, there are a number of other metabolic changes. The decrease of the carbon dioxide results in the blood becoming less acidic (i.e. respiratory alkalosis). This change in blood acidity then affects calcium, magnesium. potassium and phosphate from the intra-cellular space, the extra-cellular space and the blood. There is a decrease of ionized calcium (along with magnesium and potassium ions) in the extra-cellular space and this is what causes the muscle spasms which can be brought on in sessions. Muscles require calcium to relax (that is, in a calcium deficiency the muscles tend to spasm).
If you find that your muscles are cramping badly, there are two ways to correct this condition other than just waiting it out.
You can try the swim kick exercise at page 292 in Part Two of the book and/or you might try adding a calcium & magnesium supplement to your diet.
The flow of potassium into the blood and thus away from the nerves is the main cause of the frequent reports of paresthesia (tingling or electric currents). Nerve conduction is dependent on extra-cellular and intra-cellular concentrations of calcium, potassium, and sodium.
Hyperventilation is a well studied phenomena in the medical literature. Here is a table of common effects of hyperventilation:
Muscle spasm, most often of the hands and wrist
Paresthesia (tingling or the feeling that ants are crawling on the skin or that there are electric currents in the body)
Ringing in the ears
Pain around the heart
Twitching of the muscles, fine twitching or gross jerking
Cold and/or moist hands and/or feet
chest feels expanded or tight and contracted
parts of your body feel very relaxed or tense
strange tastes or smells
change in sensitivity of parts of your body to the feel of the body or to temperature
Lowered blood sugar
Slower reaction times
Slight modification of depth perception
Anxiety, sometimes extreme resulting in panic attacks
Sadness, sometimes strong resulting in weeping
Anger, sometimes strong
Elation or euphoria
change of body boundary (Freud's "oceanic feeling")
a general tendency to increased emotion
changes in vision including seeing flashes of light (with the eyes closed) and hallucinations
The use of hyperventilation has often been made a part of religious practices. Because of the change of the body boundary and the euphoria that is of ten experienced after the hyperventilation is stopped, the resultant state is often misidentified as "feeling open" or as "a mystical experience" or as "at one with the world."
An excellent recent article on the subject, called to my attention by Ovidiu Stoica to whom I express my gratitude, is "Alterations of consciousness, affectivity and blood gases during and after forced prolonged voluntary hyperventilation"
Because hyperventilation reduces visual acuity (especially depth perception), the ability to focus ones mind, and muscle coordination; it is very important that you not drive for at least 10 minutes following a session.
I make it a point to tell every one of my patients, a minimum of three times, that they are not to drive for a least 10 minutes following a Reichian session.
As noted in Chapter one (on page 28), if you have or might have epilepsy, deep breathing can bring on seizures so it is best for you to skip this type of self-improvement work. There are also reports in the medical literature of hyperventilation causing a heart attack. This is very rare, but I would be remiss to fail to mention it. You can read about this at: http://gateway.nlm.nih.gov/gw/Cmd, use the search terms of: hyperventilation myocardial infarction.
Footnote 13. The medical literature is quite clear on the subject of emotion and hyperventilation. The mere fact of prolonged hyperventilation results in a general tendency to emotion (likely due to the oxygen deprivation [hypoxia] of the cortex) and especially to crying (weeping), anxiety, and anger.