Hyperventilation is a respiratory disorder in which the individual maybe breathing too deeply or too rapidly. Symptoms may include, a sense of being unable to breath or having difficulty taking a comfortable deep breath, rapid heart beat, panic, tingling sensations in the fingertips, chest pain, dizziness, fainting, poor concentration, and impaired memory.
Often when we are over-breathing or hyperventilating we may feel as if we do not have enough oxygen, The problem is not that there is a short supply of oxygen, but that we have too much oxygen which creates a shortage of carbon dioxide in our system. When there is a lack of carbon dioxide our blood vessels tend to constrict and narrow. This reduces blood supply to our body organs, extremities and our brain.
When we are stressed our breathing is typically rapid and occurs higher in our chest. More relaxed breathing typically is slower and occurs in our abdomen. As we become more anxious we may also experience less saliva and dryness in our mouth.
Hyperventilation is a maladaptive response to stress. When we become anxious many people have a strong desire breath through their mouth which is a large opening and through which we often take in too much air. Breathing through the nostrils cause us to take in less oxygen and avoid the loss of carbon dioxide. This may be difficult for many people who have developed habits of breathing through their mouth or who may have difficulty breathing through their nose.
I try to practice slowing down my breath when I am more relaxed or after I have been meditating for a while. For me it seems that just using a simple mantra or counting my breath for a few minutes automatically slows my breathing. It is important to be gentle with ourselves if we choose to practice breath control. Just as with physical exercise we need to start slowly in the beginning and gradually increase our ability to slow our breath.