difficulty inhaling a full breath

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Jarrett, modified 9 Months ago.

difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
for the last couple years i have been intermittently experiencing tightness in the throat area as well as difficulty breathing in a full and satisfying breath. this comes and goes on and off the cushion.

when i experience this i either do three things:

1) notice the intention to suck in air and try to let it go,

or 2) try to get a full inhale and if it doesn't work, let go,

or 3) try to inhale fully and continue to try to get a good breath until i'm successful.



i'm curious if anyone else has experienced this kind of thing and what they have done to work with it. 
also how they have contextualized experiences like this in their practice.


more info about my practice:
2-3 hours per day ; vajrayana deity practice and mahamudra ("doing nothing") ; have spent time over the last two years doing insight practices as well. got to either stream entry or high EQ about 6 weeks ago. could be cycling through the nanas now. not sure.

any help and info is much appreciated!

thank you
Martin, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
I've never had that. Have you talked to your GP? If it is something like idiopathic subglottic stenosis (which I happen to know about, as it is something my sister had), there could be a simple treatment for it. When there is something weird in the body, it's generally a good idea to check it out. 
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Jarrett, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
i got a physical a couple years ago and mentioned it to my doctor. he did some tests. couldn't find any issues with my lungs and said my breathing is normal. gave me an inhaler. i am also a saxophonist and my saxophone playing is not effected by this. 

i think it's definitely related to meditation and pre-existing anxiety. probably some blockage. definitely a contraction.

thank you for your concern martin!! i googled idiopathic subglottic stenosis. that's wild!!
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Jim Smith, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 962 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Jarrett:
for the last couple years i have been intermittently experiencing tightness in the throat area as well as difficulty breathing in a full and satisfying breath. this comes and goes on and off the cushion.

...

From your description I'm not sure exactly what you are experiencing, but one possibility is that you are hyperventilating, which can cause you to feel as if you can't get enough air. If the feelings are caused by hyperventilation, exhaling slowly through pursed lips for a minute or so should help.
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Jarrett, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
hey jim,

thanks for weighing in.

i'm not sure if i'm hyperventilating. my breath will be normal and then i'll encounter an inhale where i just don't get enough air to feel satisfied. i have worked with letting go of the desire to feel the satisfaction of the breath, and i have noticed there is no lack of oxygen, just a desire to feel satisfied -- quite possibly a craving.

when i continue to let go of the desire to feel satisfied, the issue doesn't necessarily dissipate.

and other times when i am choosing to not let go of the desire, but rather, try to yawn to get a full breath, the problem will dissipate. 

sometimes this occurs during my sits for a few days. other times a week or so. 

i think this is probably related to a deep seated wish to control what i am experiencing.

sometimes it is accompanied by a ticking sound in my throat. when i place my attention on the ticking, the ticking almost always stops. 

i'm probably doing a poor job explaining this. but maybe someone will read this and will relate to this experience.

i will try what you advised and see if it works!
thank you
agnostic, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 1643 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Jarrett:
hey jim,

thanks for weighing in.

i'm not sure if i'm hyperventilating. my breath will be normal and then i'll encounter an inhale where i just don't get enough air to feel satisfied. i have worked with letting go of the desire to feel the satisfaction of the breath, and i have noticed there is no lack of oxygen, just a desire to feel satisfied -- quite possibly a craving.

when i continue to let go of the desire to feel satisfied, the issue doesn't necessarily dissipate.

and other times when i am choosing to not let go of the desire, but rather, try to yawn to get a full breath, the problem will dissipate. 

sometimes this occurs during my sits for a few days. other times a week or so. 

i think this is probably related to a deep seated wish to control what i am experiencing.

sometimes it is accompanied by a ticking sound in my throat. when i place my attention on the ticking, the ticking almost always stops. 

i'm probably doing a poor job explaining this. but maybe someone will read this and will relate to this experience.

i will try what you advised and see if it works!
thank you

Hi Jarrett,

I would second what Jim says about hyperventilation. You might be interested to look up Buteyko breathing and the Bohr effect. I used to think that hyperventilating was breathing very heavily in a panic attack. But it's actually a quite subtle condition which affects a lot of us and we're not aware of it. Most of the time you need far less breath than you think. Paradoxically, breathing more than you need causes a reduction in the level of carbon dioxide in the blood which reduces the amount of oxygen transferred from the blood to the cells (that's the Bohr effect). You have the feeling of not enough oxygen (that's the feeling of not being satisfied with the breath) which causes you to you breathe more which then further exacerbates the situation. The solution is to breathe less, slow outbreaths as Jim says. But it's the opposite of what feels natural (at least for me) so hyperventilation can persist for many years and cause all sorts of health problems. The autonomic breathing function becomes habituated to a lower level of CO2 and you literally have to retrain it by breathing less and over-riding a mild feeling of air hunger. It's a bit like if you've been over-eating and start eating appropriately, for a while you will feel hungry just because you're used to eating more. The good news is that with the Buteyko method you will start to feel the benift immediately you try it. I experience a noticeable deepening in my meditative state as soon as I breathe less.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 1744 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Hi agnostic! I just looked up that Boteyko breathing and it very much has similarity with the Ki breathing thought in Aikido which Helped me a bunch back in 2009 with panic attacks and paranoia. I'm now back to it as I feel it will be a useful technique to balance out my noting practice (help with the nasty stuff that can bleed through). 
Interesting info on that Bhor effect! Thanks! 
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Jarrett, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
thank you for this info, agnostic. gonna check it out!
this technique seems like it could be very helpful
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Jim Smith, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 962 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Jim Smith:
Jarrett:
for the last couple years i have been intermittently experiencing tightness in the throat area as well as difficulty breathing in a full and satisfying breath. this comes and goes on and off the cushion.

...

From your description I'm not sure exactly what you are experiencing, but one possibility is that you are hyperventilating, which can cause you to feel as if you can't get enough air. If the feelings are caused by hyperventilation, exhaling slowly through pursed lips for a minute or so should help.

Here are some other possible causes of difficult breathing that someone might not realize are causing problems:
  • If you are sitting with a slumped posture, it can compress the chest and internal organs making breathing harder.

  • If the head is bent forward it can constrict the airway.

  • If you are sitting in a chair with your knees straight and your feet extended out in front of you, that can extend the abdomen making breathing harder, sitting with your knees bent so your feet are flat on the floor may help.

  • If you are observing the breath by noticing the sensations and movements of the chest or abdomen, try observing the sensations as the breath flows in and out through the nose instead. Sometimes focusing your attention on the chest or abdomen makes it hard to breathe naturally and shifting your attention to the nose can alleviate the problem.

  • Sometimes mild nasal congestion can make breathing more laborious. If you find it easier to breath with your mouth open, try breathing that way.
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Jarrett, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
thank you jim. i will explore these recommendations.
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Nick O, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 317 Join Date: 11/5/17 Recent Posts
Are you breathing from your diaphragm? What clued me in on asking this is that you mentioned throat tension, which may mean you are taking shallow breaths up high in your chest. Try to fill your lungs starting from your belly button first and then work up. Hope this helps. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 1744 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
I find 3 Characteristics having short both in and outbreath. Both are unpleasant as if both are struggling. 
In Dissolution I find the inbreath to be be very short and unpleasant but the outbreath very long and relaxing and pleasant. 

When I'm feeling shallow breathing taking over my off cushion life I can also sense more tension and stress so I practice Ki-breathing as thought in Aikido to clean up the "pipes" and the energy going all over. Body needs water to be hydrated but also needs air to be maintained. Shallow breathing is a bad thing. Research techniques which work with deep and long in and outbreathing. That Wim Hof guy seems to be doing something similar to the Aikido Ki-breathing. 

However if you are in 3 Charactetistics stage then try also practice insight meditation too. Maybe start the day with 30 minutes I'm breathing and later do a 45-60 minutes Shamatha or Noting or what ever you find interesting. 

May you find the solution and practice well.
relbatnrut, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 10 Join Date: 11/25/18 Recent Posts
I just experienced this for a couple weeks. I was just about ready to get tested for corona. What helped me is switching for the time being to a gentler mode of practice. After starting forgiveness meditation, it went away and I can draw full breaths. Since you've experienced this for a longer time, I can't say whether or not it would work for you but I thought I'd mention emoticon
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Jarrett, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for the tip. It really comes and goes and I haven't noticed any connection to a specific technique or approach to tecnique. my hunch is that it is more about my approach to life.

tendencies to be aggressive and try to control when i dislike something that is coming up.

I talked to my teacher a few days ago and he said "let yourself die."

haha 


i have a lot to work with. thank you all for the info and suggestions.
junglist, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 232 Join Date: 1/25/17 Recent Posts
Jarrett:
for the last couple years i have been intermittently experiencing tightness in the throat area as well as difficulty breathing in a full and satisfying breath. this comes and goes on and off the cushion.

i'm curious if anyone else has experienced this kind of thing and what they have done to work with it. 
also how they have contextualized experiences like this in their practice.
Hey Jarrett, I almost always get some tightness around the throat area as well, and can't get a fully satisfying breath either.

It feels to me to be related to some sort of muscle tension in the chest and neck, but it's quite consistent, as in it happens every sit.

I think the throat tightness happens first, often with some light vibrations, then some neck tensions, then around the shoulders, sort gradually from the lighter muscles out to the bigger muscles in the shoulders and chest. Usually I find the throat disappears after while of just noticing it do its thing.

I have occasional asthma and occasionally get some neck trouble, so I would assume it's connected, although the throat stuff feels like it has a slightly different character because it mostly starts when I sit, whereas the shoulder neck and chest stuff is present in varying degrees of subtlty off the cushion. I'm going to have a review of my asthma in a few weeks and see what I can find out then.
agnostic, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 1643 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
junglist:

I have occasional asthma and occasionally get some neck trouble, so I would assume it's connected, although the throat stuff feels like it has a slightly different character because it mostly starts when I sit, whereas the shoulder neck and chest stuff is present in varying degrees of subtlty off the cushion. I'm going to have a review of my asthma in a few weeks and see what I can find out then.

Buteyko breathing is suppose to be good for asthma too - carbon dioxide relaxes and clears the airways.
Michael, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/19/19 Recent Posts
Hi Jarrett, I think I may have had something similar to you. It was really difficult for me. I will comment on the parts that stand out for me.

i have been intermittently experiencing tightness in the throat area as well as difficulty breathing in a full and satisfying breath
I never had the tightness in the throat, but difficulty breathing a full and satisfying breath was a major part of my life for over a year. And a minor part for many years after that. And it still is maybe a really really really minor part. (a minor part in that, these feelings tend to arise if I talk about them)

i think it's definitely related to meditation and pre-existing anxiety
Yes, I think mine was related to anxiety.

i have noticed there is no lack of oxygen, just a desire to feel satisfied.
For me, this desire to feel satisfied was very intense for at least a year, as I said. It actually manifested as a feeling in the head and upper torso mainly. It was kind of like an itch that wouldn't get scratched. I would take a full breath, and get to the point where my lungs were full and couldn't take in anymore oxygen, and there would maybe be this ever so brief moment of satisfaction, but then breathing out the desire/feelings in the head would come back even stronger. Trying to feed the desire made it worse in a way.

try to yawn to get a full breath, the problem will dissipate.
I would do this, too, the trying to yawn part. It would sometimes satisfy the desire, but usually not for very long, and it would often make it come back stronger.

I also sometimes get a ticking, but it never has felt related to the anxiety or the wanting to breathe a good breath issue.

i'm probably doing a poor job explaining this. but maybe someone will read this and will relate to this experience.
I lived with this for at least a year and and basically never talked about it. Talking about it would only seem to make the desire worse, and besides that, it is incredibly difficult to explain. I see a lot of similarities between what you say and what I experienced, but also some differences.

As I said, the feelings would seem to arise more strongly if I talked about it. It has been a decade since the really bad year, but recently I was describing that year to a friend of mine and the next day it was almost like I was back in that year. The feeling was there so strong! Very unpleasant and a little scary.

One more thing to add. For many years after the bad year, while sitting, there would be a rising tension/desire to take a deep breath while doing sitting practice. So every 5 minutes or so I would take a deep breath. That would relieve the tension and then it would slowly build until I felt like I needed to take a full breath again. 

Then one time, over the course of a few days, I decided to not to give into the desire, I just let it build and build and build while sitting. I think in the course of even a single sit it would finally stabilize and dissapate somewhat. But I did that for a few days and it basically "fixed" it. I no longer have that building sensation. Perhaps something like that would be beneficial for you. It was really difficult for me, but worth it. Just sit with it and let it build and let it be.
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Jarrett, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
fascinating, michael! thanks for sharing your experience.

i relate to so much of what you said. 

"For me, this desire to feel satisfied was very intense for at least a year, as I said. It actually manifested as a feeling in the head and upper torso mainly. It was kind of like an itch that wouldn't get scratched. I would take a full breath, and get to the point where my lungs were full and couldn't take in anymore oxygen, and there would maybe be this ever so brief moment of satisfaction, but then breathing out the desire/feelings in the head would come back even stronger. Trying to feed the desire made it worse in a way."

yes.. feeding the desire does seem to make it worse.

i had a realization today that so much of my anxiety is related to my concern for others. because of this concern, i impose my opinion onto other people in the form of suggestions. this pattern comes from my mom. and it's not very helpful (or skillful), in that the root of it is compassion as well as self interest because it alleviates my own anxiety. 

can't refrain from pointing out the obvious: this is in my throat area and the tightness and tension and deep seated wish to control my experience is just another manifestation of a pattern that appears in my relationships to others and my environment.  suggestions with speech / effecting another person with words. like i literally can't keep my mouth shut -- can't let my throat feel shut!

i'm curious michael, if you also made a connection between the energetic component and some way(s) in which you relate(d) with others.

lately i have been allowing the feeling to be there and trying to just allow it and love it and not let it distract my attention away from the breath. i find that the dis-ease will chill out a bit and i get to a point where i can easily get that satisfying breath with an inhale a little bit stretched out.

i am curious if you think this should be avoided as this is still a subtle manipulation of the breath in order to experience a craving. 

it doesnt feel like a linear thing. the tension goes away and comes back at seemingly random moments even in the course of a sit. 
was this the case for you too? 

in other moments the tension will disperse to other places in my body. often the head, neck, front of shoulders, upper chest, and shoulder-blades. 

quite a lot is coming to the surface that i can investigate. 

thank you for sharing your experiences. very helpful information!
Michael, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/19/19 Recent Posts
fascinating, michael! thanks for sharing your experience.

i relate to so much of what you said. 
I thought you would. I related to a lot of what you said which is why I shared.

i'm curious michael, if you also made a connection between the energetic component and some way(s) in which you relate(d) with others.
Not quite as directly as you have. I'll share some connections that I noticed. One is that talking about it seemed to bring it up. Which is partly how I know its anxiety related. There was definitely some sort of control aspect to it as well. During the really bad year, there were so many moments where I would try and try to get the right yawn, the right breath. If anything, I think it's more about relating to self or life in general. The other weird connection is that during this time I would watch the show House. And that show would trigger the breathing thing pretty hard. The whole show did, but especially these parts where they would show (in a graphical/cartoonish form) the inside of a diseased body. Those would get me pretty hard. I'm not sure why I didn't just choose to stop watching the show.  I guess because I liked the show and knew that it "shouldn't" cause anything so I would just try to force myself to not have the issue. Along with the fact that it wasn't like I would be completely free of the issue if I stopped watching. 

One curious thing is that I don't really remember how the bad year ended. I'm not sure if it was gradual or sudden. I know there was still some residual left for many many years and there is still a small amount left. 

i get to a point where i can easily get that satisfying breath with an inhale a little bit stretched out.

i am curious if you think this should be avoided as this is still a subtle manipulation of the breath in order to experience a craving. 
I can share my experience, but I can't really endorse it as a way for anybody else to deal with it because I just don't know if what worked for me would work for anybody else or not. So I would suggest that you do what feels right for you to do more than anything. I shared in the previous post about having the pressure build over the course of 5 minutes or so and then having to take a deep breath. Part of the problem with the "satisfying breath" is how long the relief lasts. During the bad year, the relief lasted for a mere moment and I was right back into having to try to get this "satisfying breath" again. That was fairly excruciating. That was mostly something I experienced outside of formal sitting. Then for years, most pronounced during formal sitting, I would have the pressure build and then take the big inhale and it would actually relieve the pressure/urge for a few minutes at least. That is a lot less excruciating. But still I didn't really like that I felt like I had to take this deep breath every so often. 

So, like I said in the first post, over the course of a few days I just stopped doing it. I would recommend you try it, but I'm not sure that it would have succeeded if I had tried it before I was ready. I don't think I tried it with some great plan, I just tried it. And it was pretty difficult. The urge would build and build. But eventually stabilize and calm down. So, yea, you could try it and maybe it would work for you. But I think you will have to decide if you want to try it or not. Try not to get too bogged down with this, it will work itself out eventually.

Recently, and this feels somewhat related, I've had my first few sits where I didn't move at all. I remember being annoyed by swallowing during meditation. I had to swallow so often and it felt like it broke the pleasantness of the meditation. So I just played with not swallowing and not moving at all. I didn't know how long I was going to go for, but after getting through the first few minutes I realized I was not going to move until the bell most likely. And that's what happened. Which was about 30 minutes. That first time, there were some panic sensations. But I remember thinking, "If I'm breathing, I'm ok" and noticing that I was in fact breathing and was in fact, ok. At the end, I had a huge pool of saliva in my mouth, which I was surprised to discover. Since then, I don't swallow as often during sits, and I am less annoyed by it. It has some parrallels with the having to breath deeply ever few minutes and how I got over that.

So, to sum up, I guess I would recommend that you try seeing what happens if you just let the sensations be. You said something about just trying to allow it and love it. That sounds right on to me. I think being focused on "fixing" it is anti-productive.

I'm not sure if the tension going away ever felt random. It sure feels random when it comes on. Although not always random. It's correlated with talking about it, or the show House, as I described. But if it arose, I'm not sure if it ever really went away randomly. The minor tension would go away due to the deep inhale, but the big stuff, I think I would have to get sufficiently distracted by something else for that to go away.

Wishing you the best!
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Dream Walker, modified 8 Months ago.

RE: difficulty inhaling a full breath

Posts: 1330 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Jarrett:
for the last couple years i have been intermittently experiencing tightness in the throat area as well as difficulty breathing in a full and satisfying breath. this comes and goes on and off the cushion.

when i experience this i either do three things:

1) notice the intention to suck in air and try to let it go,

or 2) try to get a full inhale and if it doesn't work, let go,

or 3) try to inhale fully and continue to try to get a good breath until i'm successful.



i'm curious if anyone else has experienced this kind of thing and what they have done to work with it. 
also how they have contextualized experiences like this in their practice.


more info about my practice:
2-3 hours per day ; vajrayana deity practice and mahamudra ("doing nothing") ; have spent time over the last two years doing insight practices as well. got to either stream entry or high EQ about 6 weeks ago. could be cycling through the nanas now. not sure.

any help and info is much appreciated!

thank you
Check this out and see what you think.
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/MCTB+2.+Cause+and+Effect
~D