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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Alternative Treatment

I'm always looking for other ways to deal with BP than the heavy medications we are given. I did a google search and came up with this site that describes things as odd as breathing through one nostril and then the other.

I'm all for trying something new. But geez, that's just a wee bit strange. Why, you ask, back there in the peanut gallery? Why turn my nose up (pun intended) at such efforts?

Well, smartie pants, I don't think it's really possible to breathe through one nostril at a time, except when in the midst of those horrible February colds where your one nostril is encrusted closed and packets of C4 are required to open it anyway.

But let's re-examine this.

What would one have to do in order to really do this? It would take extreme concentration, to the extent of shutting out all other stimuli. This is, I believe, the definition of meditation. Instead of concentrating on a point of light or an architectural feature in the room, you are concentrating on your breathing. This is one of the key steps in meditation.

How does this help BP?

For those who are not tarred with the bipolar brush, you have to imagine your mind as a clean kitchen floor (I'm going to borrow and alter an analogy that Michele used, if you don't mind, Michele). You have a house full of kids and a couple of dogs and they wake up, run through the kitchen, spilling juice, the dogs have dirty feet from outside, so you go down and clean the floor, but they come back from playing outside and track even more through and yet you still clean the floor, but in a different corner now, and they make their own lunch and it's mess again all over the floor, and still you clean. The bipolar mind is both easily distracted and has difficulty on extended concentration (moving from area to area to clean the floor, the tracks along the clean floor being all these new thoughts randomly racing across your mind). Ironically, the BP mind can also take one idea and shake it repeatedly, unable to let it go, the constant focus sometimes changing into a distorted view of the topic, which, according to some topics, can be quite dangerous indeed. The thoughts can be still racing, they are just one topic, over and over.

The benefit to trying to do something as ludicrous as breathing out one nostril at a time is it helps focus the BP mind onto something neutral, something that is very unlikely to trigger either a manic or depressive spiral. Breathing also controls your system's tempo: the steady slow breathing of such an exercise would help regulate the BP nervous system to a calmer, manageable level.

Mind you, I still think the overall suggestion is strange--one nostril at a time. But the message behind it is good.

Do I plan on doing it? No. But I run, I draw, I play hockey, I paint. These things help regulate my concentration and keep me, for at least those short durations, closer to the ground and not spinning into the stratosphere.

Do I think it could take place of medication? Oh, I wish with all my heart that it could. But I'd be terrified to try. Not yet. Just not yet.


Blogger synergy said...
Breathing is one of the techniques I use on K to help her calm down. Talking her through an anxiety attack and having her focus on my voice sometimes is able to focus her away from what her brain is telling her. That said, it is a technique, but it doesn't always work.

If you can find a good yoga instructor, who concentrates on the breathing side of yoga, as opposed only how many exercises can you do in 60 minutes, then you can learn to concentrate on breathing and releasing the thoughts in your mind. It helps release stress for anyone, but I would think it is especially valuable for bipolar patients. It takes a while to learn, but it's worth the effort. Emptying your mind is usually not taught or encouraged in the US and Canada.  

Blogger moodymicello said...
So I'm wrong I see you on Blogger. The thing tnat strikes me first is that you are terrified to try and that means your medication is working! Secondly, I'm honored you liked my analogy. Lastly, there is a lot to be said for breathing, meditation or yoga as such means of calming the body and bringing the mind into focus can be quite effective. I worked with a doctor who taught self-hynosis back in 1980 it was directed toward pain management for severe headaches thinking it could help in eliminating the portion of theh pain attributable to stress. It works when I can focus enough to do it. and that is the trick. I'll have to try focusing on breathing on one nostril just for the hell of it. Ps, once my bipolar meds were in adjustment, the headaches went away. The thought now is that they were from lack of serotonin. Who knew??  

Blogger Cliff said...
Hey :) There's a doctor in New Zealand that has done a lot of studies on left brain verses right brain, and he feels that bipolar disorder is intimately related to this. He recommends putting icewater in one ear to treat mania, the other to treat depression.

There's good info at and Jack Pettigrew, the guy that came up with this, maintains a really cool page at

Enjoy :)  

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