Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa's Blog

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WHAT DOES STRESS DO TO US AND WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT STRESS? October 7, 2011

In our wellness practice we find long term chronic stress to be a major contributing factor to many health problems.  We find that up to 80% of the symptoms that patients initially present with are improved when stress is dealt with first.  We also find that the patient’s remaining symptoms become much easier to alleviate:  we see better digestion, less pain, less fatigue, better sleep, improved fertility, improved moods, and reductions to allergies when we deal with stress first.

How does stress affect us?

Stress initiates the “fight or flight” syndrome—our body energy goes to where it is needed for “fight or flight”: energy goes to the arms, legs, and short term mental functions.  Consequently our energy goes away from digestion, immune system and all of the body’s other “repair and restore” functions.  This has great survival value for short term “ fight or flight” type stresses; however, long term chronic stress is what most of our patients experience—rather than a short term “escape predator” situation, we experience days of unrelenting deadlines or other forms of work, relationship, or financial stresses.  In addition to impairing digestion, long term chronic stress has also been shown to raise blood pressure, stiffen arteries, suppress the immune system, and heighten the risk for conditions as diverse as diabetes and depression.  Worst of all, any of these health conditions can exacerbate our feeling of stress and set up a real downward spiral/negative feedback loop!

When stress is reduced, immune system function and digestion are automatically improved.  Good digestion in turn gives us the energy to heal. Also, we feel less stressed when we have more energy. This is why reducing stress results in improvements to so many other symptoms.

What are some specific symptoms that can accompany long term chronic stress?

  • Cognitive: memory problems, inability to concentrate, seeing only the negative, anxiety
  • Emotional: irritability, rapid mood swings, agitation, feeling overwhelmed, unhappiness or depression
  • Physical: aches and pains, digestive disturbances, rapid heartbeat, loss of libido, frequent illnesses, auto-immune disorders, high blood pressure
  • Behavioral: disturbed sleep, over or under eating, procrastination or neglecting responsibilities, substance abuse

 

What can be done about stress?

For our bodies to be in optimal health, there must be a balance between stress and relaxation.  We must manage our stress to keep ourselves in balance.  Stress management involves changing the stressful situations when possible, changing our reaction to the stressful situations when the situations can’t be changed, taking care of our health, and making time for rest and relaxation.

Common and effective stress reduction techniques include acupuncture, massage, moderate exercise, meditation, pleasant social interactions, and laughter.

One of the simplest and most profound ways to reduce stress and improve your health is with the practice of Long Deep Breathing.  I teach almost every patient this very simple technique and those who practice it benefit tremendously.   Long Deep Breathing is a wonderful relaxation technique and counteracts many of the negative effects of stress.

Long Deep Breathing is the simplest of all yogic breaths.  Simply inhale and exhale through the nose.  Fill the bottom of the lungs first, then the middle, then the top.  Hold the breath in for a second or two and then exhale:  top first, then middle, and then bottom.  You can do this breath while sitting on the floor, while sitting in a chair, or while lying down.  It is excellent to do before bed to help with sleep difficulties.

When we are stressed our breathing becomes short and shallow.  Likewise, when we are relaxed our breathing is naturally deeper and slower.  By cultivating the practice of Long Deep Breathing, we can induce a more relaxed state in our bodies.  It is when we are in this relaxed state that healing and rejuvenation of the body can take place.

Long Deep Breathing is easy to learn and easy to practice. Benefits come with very small amounts of practice.  Five minutes at a time is usually ample.  Five minutes, three times per day will have wonderful clinical effects.  In addition to a feeling of relaxation, there will be other effects such as lowered blood pressure, better ability to clear body toxins, and increase in energy levels.

Many of our patients have been able to reduce or eliminate their blood pressure medications simply from this practice of Long Deep Breathing.  If Long Deep Breathing could be packaged in pill form and patented by a pharmaceutical company, you would see it heavily advertised on TV!

There are of course many other stress reduction techniques as mentioned above, but none are as easy to do on your own or as always available as Long Deep Breathing.

I hope that these simple suggestions can help you reduce your stress.  Your personal situation or health condition may be very complicated, but by starting with stress reduction great improvements can be made to your health, happiness, and longevity.

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Stress and digestion: how they interact and simple ways to make improvements June 24, 2011

In our practice we find long term chronic stress and poor digestion to be the two health conditions at the root of most other problems.  Furthermore, long term chronic stress and poor digestion interact to make each other much worse.

We find that up to 80% of the symptoms that people initially present with are improved when stress and digestion are dealt with first.  We also find that the patient’s remaining symptoms become much easier to alleviate:  we see less pain, less fatigue, better sleep, improved fertility, moods improved, and reductions to allergies when we deal with stress and digestion first.

How does stress impair digestion?

Stress initiates the “fight or flight” syndrome—our body energy goes to where it is needed for “fight or flight”: energy goes to the arms, legs, and short term mental functions.  Consequently our energy goes away from digestion, immune system and all of the body’s other “repair and restore” functions.  This has great survival value for short term “ fight or flight” type stresses; however, long term chronic stress is what most of our patients experience—rather than a short term “escape predator” situation, we experience days of unrelenting deadlines or other forms of work, relationship, or financial stresses.  In addition to impairing digestion, long term chronic stress has also been shown to raise blood pressure, stiffen arteries, suppress the immune system, and heighten the risk for conditions as diverse as diabetes and depression.

When stress is reduced, immune system function and digestion are automatically improved.  Good digestion in turn gives us the energy to heal. Also, we feel less stressed when we have more energy. This is why simultaneously reducing stress and improving digestion results in improvements to so many other symptoms.

What can be done about stress?

One of the simplest and most profound ways to reduce stress and improve your health is with the practice of Long Deep Breathing.  I teach almost every patient this very simple technique and those who practice it benefit tremendously.   Long Deep Breathing is a wonderful relaxation technique and counteracts many of the negative effects of stress.

Long Deep Breathing is the simplest of all yogic breaths.  Simply inhale and exhale through the nose.  Fill the bottom of the lungs first, then the middle, then the top.  Hold the breath in for a second or two and then exhale:  top first, then middle, and then bottom.  You can do this breath while sitting on the floor, while sitting in a chair, or while lying down.  It is excellent to do before bed to help with sleep difficulties.

When we are stressed our breathing becomes short and shallow.  Likewise, when we are relaxed our breathing is naturally deeper and slower.  By cultivating the practice of Long Deep Breathing, we can induce a more relaxed state in our bodies.  It is when we are in this relaxed state that healing and rejuvenation of the body can take place.

Long Deep Breathing is easy to learn and easy to practice. Benefits come with very small amounts of practice.  Five minutes at a time is usually ample.  Five minutes, three times per day will have wonderful clinical effects.  In addition to a feeling of relaxation, there will be other effects such as lowered blood pressure, better ability to clear body toxins, and increase in energy levels.

Many of our patients have been able to reduce or eliminate their blood pressure medications simply from this practice of Long Deep Breathing.  If Long Deep Breathing could be packaged in pill form and patented by a pharmaceutical company, you would see it heavily advertised on TV!

There are of course many other stress reduction techniques, many of which we utilize in our practice, but none are as easy to do on your own as Long Deep Breathing.

What can be done to improve digestion?

Reducing stress is one key; eating in a pleasant environment in an unhurried way is another.  Beyond that, digestion can be improved by avoiding highly processed foods and by avoiding foods grown on soils with heavy fertilizer and pesticides use.  These food production practices result in nutritionally deficient foods.  Our bodies have to work harder to draw nutrition from these foods.

In our practice we also frequently recommend supplementing with digestive enzymes:  Digestive enzymes are what our bodies use to break down the foods we eat.  As we get older our bodies produce fewer enzymes; supplementing can result in great improvements to digestion.  In clinical practice, there are many additional steps that can be taken.

I hope that these simple suggestions can help you reduce your stress and improve your digestion.  Your personal health condition may be very complicated, but by starting with the basics great improvements can be made to your health, happiness, and longevity.

 

Our Long Deep Breathing App has been upgraded! February 11, 2011

Filed under: stress,wellness,yogic breathing techniques — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 10:21 pm
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Our Long Deep Breathing iPhone App has new been updated with some new features and it now supports many other breathing exercises besides Long Deep Breathing.

I received a number of requests to expand the App and enable control of the duration of the inhale, hold-in, exhale and hold-out.  Now the App can do this and for those of you who already have the Long Deep Breathing App already it is a free upgrade.   (For new users:  cost is 99 cents, Works on iPad Touch, iPhone, and iPad, requires operating system iOS 4.1 or later— Just go to the iTunes store and search for Long Deep Breathing, or click this link:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/long-deep-breathing/id337291691?mt=8 )

Most forms of conscious breathing are very beneficial and breathing exercises (called pranayams in yogic terminology) have been used for millennia to improve physical, mental and spiritual health.  Try the One Minute Breath—20 seconds to inhale, 20 seconds of holding the breath in, then 20 seconds to exhale.  You can use the App to help you gradually build your lung capacity by starting with shorter intervals and gradually lengthening the intervals as you practice over the weeks.

For me having a chime sound and meditating with my eyes closed enables me to go deeper into meditation than if I’m watching a clock or timing my pulses.

Here is what Yogi Bhajan said about the One Minute Breath:  “Use the One Minute Breath each day.  Practice it to the point that you have mastery.  All knowledge of the universe, here and hereafter, of the underworld and the heavenly skies, will dawn on you.”    Even if you don’t achieve all this, you will still feel many benefits!   (Yogi Bhajan is the man who brought kundalini yoga to the western world and I have been following his teachings since 1971.)

So try out the App…my patients and new yoga students love the Long Deep Breathing part of the App…..now more advanced yoga students can time more complicated pranayams!

 

 

Updated IPhone App version coming soon February 26, 2010

Filed under: stress,Uncategorized,yogic breathing techniques — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 7:11 pm
Tags: , ,

An updated version of our Long Deep Breathing Application will be available soon…

In response to your requests, we will be including a way to do more advanced breathing exercises (called pranayams in the yogic tradition) by individually adjusting the inhale, hold-in, exhale, and hold-out times.  I’ll let you know when it is ready.

There are many wonderful ways to do breathing exercises and each has slightly different effects.  The simple and basic Long Deep Breathing exercise remains the best for beginners and those who want to reduce their stress levels, lower blood pressure, and improve their overall health.

Here are some instructions on how to do Long Deep Breathing:

Sit with your spine straight or lay on the floor with your spine straight. All inhaling and exhaling is through the nose.
Exhale all the air out of your lungs through your nose by contracting your navel point back toward the spine. Now inhale deep, pushing the navel point out and expanding the lower one-third of your lungs. Then consciously expand the middle portion of your lungs by expanding your chest. Finally expand the upper third of your lungs. Your collarbone will lift slightly and your shoulders may go back slightly. Once you have reached the full inhale, hold for a second or so, and then reverse the process. Exhale first the top, then the middle, finally the bottom. At the end of the exhale, immediately begin the next inhale.
This process will feel very natural after a little practice.
If the breath feels jerky, you are probably trying too hard. Just relax and continue practicing. Here is a simple fix: put a finger about four inches in front of your torso. As you breathe, move your finger smoothly up and down, from the level of your navel to your chin. Let this be a guide, raising the finger as you inhale and lowering as you exhale. You will soon be breathing smoothly. Think of a big pitcher slowly filling with water, starting at the bottom and slowly filling to the top, with the opposite on the exhale.

 

Another Long Deep Breathing Newpaper Article!

This article form the Fairfax Times actually came out in December, 2009.   In addition to talking about the Long Deep Breathing App, it talks  about our practice.

Here’s the link:

http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/cms/story.php?id=779

Here’s the article:

by Gregg MacDonald | Staff writer

Shamus Ian Fatzinger/Fairfax County Times
Darshan S. Khalsa, of Reston’s Khalsa Integrative Medicine, LLC, displays the iPhone application he helped design to lead users through a series of deep breathing exercises.
A Reston alternative healer has teamed up with a Herndon software developer to create an iPhone software application that helps people practice holistic deep breathing techniques — and it is selling all over the world.
 

Today’s front page in the Washington Business Journal is about the new Long Deep Breathing iPhone App December 4, 2009

Today’s Washington Business Journal put us on the front page!  Here’s the link:
 
 

Holistic medicine practice puts deep-breathing app on iPhone to draw in new customers and revenue

Washington Business Journal – by Melissa Castro Staff Reporter

Joanne S. Lawton
Dr. Darshan Khalsa has launched a “Long Deep Breathing” mobile application to spread holistic medicine techniques.

View Larger

A Reston-based alternative medicine practice is launching ancient spiritual concepts into the frenetic world of iPhone apps, in yet another sign of technology’s steady march into pretty much every fiber of our existence.

Dr. Darshan Khalsa and his wife, Carol O’Donnell Khalsa, went live this month with their first app, “Long Deep Breathing.” It’s a stress relief technique that is part of the Kundalini yoga that Darshan Khalsa has practiced since the early 1970s.

The Khalsas’ collaborative project hints at the limitless opportunity behind smart phones and the app craze, a no-barriers-to-entry industry that has made millionaires out of entrepreneurs peddling everything from flatulent noisemakers to imaginary farms that sell imaginary seeds for genuine money.

If expelling air can make big bucks, there has to be a market for inhaling.

“Apps,” or applications, are tiny software programs that give smart phones the power to find a restaurant, hail a cab and identify the song playing on the cab’s radio.

Khalsa, a quiet Sikh convert whose gentle hazel eyes and impossible stillness of being inspire healing in his 1,500 or so patients at Khalsa Integrative Medicine, is an unlikely prophet for technology and social media. He rises at 4 a.m. to do yoga and pray for world peace, then tends to 10 or 12 patients a day.

If Khalsa were left to his own devices, “I’d have just four or five patients — she’s the one who brings in the patients,” he said in his Reston office, surrounded by Chinese herbs, maps of the body’s energy meridians and dozens of certificates affirming his training in alternative and Oriental medicine.

O’Donnell Khalsa handles the marketing for her husband’s practice with a muscular New York brassiness that grabs you by the collar and demands your attention. She has her own long history with alternative medicine, but that’s not the contribution she makes to their relationship. “My background is health care marketing, yours is healing the world and together we co-create that,” O’Donnell Khalsa said to her husband.

Thanks in part to his wife’s tenacity, Khalsa could soon have millions of patients from around the globe, although none will pay more than a dollar for his advice.

In just five days — despite snafus in the initial launch — the breathing app had already been downloaded 46 times. Without a single act of marketing by either Khalsa, iPhone users from as far away as Australia have downloaded the breathing app.

Even the app’s developer, George Churchwell, the president of Herndon-based Tech 2000 Inc., was surprised by its early success. “If they had asked me my opinion, I would have said, ‘Eh, I don’t know. Do people really need to learn how to breathe?’” Churchwell said. “But Darshan hit on something that resonates with many people.”

While Long Deep Breathing is no iFart Mobile — which has been downloaded half a million times since December 2008 and has frequently pulled in as much as $10,000 a day — it’s a reminder of the app craze’s unlimited opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“This is the third wave,” said Churchwell, who launched Tech 2000 as a software and computer training company in 1984. (The company started writing apps in January.)

Before Google’s search engines, Churchwell says, most companies were invisible on the Internet. After Google took over the Web and began charging for prominent placement in its search results, “the big guys crawled to the top and owned the Internet again,” Churchwell said.

But Apple Inc.’s App Store has leveled the playing field once more, creating a space where placement is based on the number of downloads and the level of positive feedback an app has received.

If you’re creative and already tech-savvy, it could cost you as little as $99 to write your own app and put it in the App Store. Last summer, Churchwell’s Tech 2000 trained high school students at Woodson High in Northeast Washington to create a basic

iPhone home page for their schools.

Not only does Churchwell believe anyone can write an app, he’s also developed a business model to prove his own theory true. By creating engines that can easily program apps for any sort of educational content, Churchwell is now willing to develop any well-conceived app for anyone, free of startup costs. Instead, Tech 2000 takes a 50 percent cut of all sales revenue left over after Apple takes its own 30 percent slice of total revenue.

“We’re like mini-venture capitalists,” Churchwell said.

The Khalsas’ breathing app didn’t fit into the existing templates offered by Tech 2000, so it was built from scratch and paid for on a flat-fee basis. (The Khalsas declined to say how much the app cost to develop.)

The Khalsas are already working on developing their next two holistic health apps, including a wellness assessment that will be a free download.

At its current sales clip, the Churchwells expect that Long Deep Breathing will pay for itself within six months. But that’s hardly the point.

It’s more about seva — the Sanskrit word for selfless service. “The cost is irrelevant — it’s about putting our energy into something,” O’Donnell Khalsa said. “The goal of our relationship is to transform the health of as many people as we can.”

 

 

 

Our new Long Deep Breathing iPhone App is ready! November 22, 2009

Our new Long Deep Breathing iPhone application is now available on the iTunes App store! 

This link will take you to the iTunes store where the App is described and can be purchased:

 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/long-deep-breathing/id337291691?mt=8

Of course you can experience the benefits of Long Deep Breathing without an iPhone or an iPhone App.  Many of you who are patients have already learned the technique and understand some of the benefits of Long Deep Breathing.  

Creating the App is a way to reach out to people far beyond our patient base.   We’re hoping that many people all over the world who  are experiencing stress can learn this simple Long Deep Breathing technique and derive many benefits from it.  Perhaps those who already know the Long Deep Breathing technique will be reminded to practice it more often.  The App does seem to make Long Deep Breathing  more fun, particularly as you work to slow down your breathing….it becomes quite easy to track and challenge yourself. 

We’ve already had sales in 14 countries!  For some reason, it seems to be selling well in Australia. In addition to the iPhone, the App will work on an iPod Touch.

Remember, our clinical experience is that people who practice Long Deep Breathing for 5 minutes, three times daily, will experience major health improvements!