November 14, 2022

The Breath Work that helped me Heal from Long Covid (& Changed my Life).

I thought I knew about breath.

I love dancing and lifting weights and taught yoga effortlessly in my chiropractic clinic. I’ve practiced yoga for 20 years, taught yoga for a decade, trained yoga teachers, studied with yoga masters, and earned two graduate degrees.

You could say I was cocky about breath. I thought I had nailed it.

Breath was “beginner” stuff.

Then, I got Covid.

For six weeks, I had a low-grade fever and could not get out of bed. When I did, I had to stop to catch my breath at the top of a flight of stairs. If I talked too fast while teaching, I had to stop, embarrassed—my chest heaving, my face blue.

But I was one of the lucky ones.

I was able to walk up that set of stairs, to teach. But I wasn’t the strong, vital person I was before.

Before the six-week fever, I could easily tire out my teenage coonhound. Afterward, I could not recover from mild exercise, and things that had once been easy floored me for days: vacuuming, standing to wash dishes, and walking my dog. I had to be stingy, conserving energy whenever I could.

My neck muscles, the only thing that had gotten stronger, bulged from trying to get air into my lungs.

I had long Covid.

As a healer, I knew that I had to get my breath back on track or I would continue to deteriorate—it was the first thing I had always taught my patients and students.

I had to teach myself how to breathe again, through my nose, using my whole diaphragm.

But I underestimated the profound effect using my whole diaphragm would have on my life. It sounds like a science thing, and it was:

>> I discovered the terrible rib pain I’d had for years was an old injury that had never healed.

>> My core strength and balance improved.

>> Chronic back pain (that I’d used yoga to control) went away completely.

>> My foggy mind started to clear.

Using my whole diaphragm was also profoundly spiritual.

>> I could feel my center in a way I never had before.

>> My boundaries improved.

>> I felt courageous.

>> I liked myself.

>> I noticed when I wasn’t true to myself and pleased other people.

All that change was not easy. Under the people-pleasing tendencies was deep-seated anxiety that I still wrestle with. When I started to say no, I lost friends and loved ones. I also felt a sense of contentment I had never experienced before, despite years of spiritual practice and all my expertise.

Breathing with my whole diaphragm changed me at my core, physically and spiritually. It gave me the courage to make big changes and heal.

I no longer have to be stingy with energy.

I have been gaining vitality for a year now. In July 2022, I started an online business. Last week, I could exercise every day. I feel more alive than I have ever felt, even when I was doing three hot yoga classes a day.

I don’t know if learning to breathe with your whole diaphragm will be as profound for you, but I do know it helps me. I feel it every moment in myself and I see it changing my students every day.

This is a video of me teaching full diaphragmatic breath—or normal, quiet breathing—back in 2021. I was still suffering from long Covid, but breathing had already started to change everything for me.


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Elizabeth Olson, DC, MSc, Yoga teacher  |  Contribution: 2,135

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