The most useful and easiest health practice I know of is breathing. At the beginning of these COVID times I began to explore it a little more and took a free breath training course at https://breatheologyworld.com/courses/breath-training-in-the-corona-crisis/
There I learned of a simple rhythm of inhaling through the nose and exhaling, twice as long as the inhale, through either nose or mouth, and that doing this relaxes the vagus nerve, the longest nerve in the body and the rest of the nervous system. The people who do this consciously a few minutes a day probably receive health benefits from it and can use it for first aid after an injury or shock.
Breatheology: The Art of Conscious Breathing (Breatheology, 2010 https://www.breatheology.com/free-ebook-covid-19/) came with the course and is an introduction to pranayama, the ancient Hindu breathing practices.
Here’s what the book recommends for breathing and pain relief:
1) Gently breathe out and focus on the sore or painful area, while one hand (yours or someone else’s) touches the area. In this way you achieve maximum awareness and can loosen up e.g. cramped muscles in the neck or shoulders. When you consciously “let go” of the area through nerve impulses from the brain, the muscles release their cramped condition. You can clearly feel the muscle “letting go” – like when you stretch a tense calf after a long run.
2) Gently breathe out and focus your consciousness on your breath. Press your lips together or hold the air back with your tongue to produce a “pseeeee” sound when you breathe out. Now visualize the place where you experienced pain, and imagine that the area heals more and more for each exhalation. Feel the heat spreading in precisely the areas that you focus on. This exercise can easily take 5-10 minutes.
3) Try hyperventilating energetically with 10-20 breaths. This breathing pattern often occurs spontaneously in laboring women and in people who experience sudden pain. Readily produce an audible sound and concentrate solely on the breathing mechanism. An intense hyperventilation will lead to many temporary changes in your body – your blood pressure will rise, your heart will work faster, the acidity of your blood will change and you will secrete a lot of adrenalin, which “prepares you for battle”. With all these distractions, you are bound to redirect your focus from the pain. It will become secondary to the many other changes that occur in your body.
4) Do 10 hook breaths by pushing the diaphragm and chest down after a full inhalation. You probably use hook breathing spontaneously when you lift something heavy. This is also used by laboring women. In this way you create a higher oxygen tension in your lungs, which will lead to a greater oxygen concentration in the blood. Apart from temporarily changing your oxygen tension and blood pressure, it will also stimulate your nerves and create a kind of relaxation afterwards.
5) Take a walk in a forest, find a deserted beach or lie down under your comforter. Scream at the top of your lungs. Do it 5-10 times. This will loosen up physical and mental tension, frustration and pain. By freeing yourself and stimulating your lungs, diaphragm, solar plexus and the rest of your nervous system, you create a soothing and refreshing sensation throughout your body. This is also a good exercise to use when you have stress.
6) Breathe calmly – use Victorious Breath*, if you like. Make your exhalation twice as long as your inhalation as in the simple pranayama exercises, as this will have a strong stimulatory effect on your vagus nerve and thus the entire soothing part of the nervous system. At the same time, try to “enter” the pain. Examine it and accept it. In time you will become so eager to “investigate” your pain that it will disappear completely.
7) Breathe calmly using the Victorious breath and take as much time as you can breathing out. Exhale through the mouth instead of the nose, and produce a deep and soft “hmmmmmmmm” sound. You can also make it sharper and higher “heeeeeee”, if you feel like it. The sound should be as smooth and melodic as possible. This is a pranayama exer- cise and is called bhramari. In Sanskrit bhramara means “bumblebee”, so this is the sound you should try to imitate. The exercise creates a lot of vibrations throughout your body and vitalizes your cells with a micro-massage. Apart from cleansing your cells and your nervous sys- tem, bhramari is also a formidable relaxation and concentration exer- cise that is good for insomnia. Alternatively, use the sacred mantra Om (pronounced “AAAAUUUMMMMMM”). This mantra is sure to make you feel the vitalizing vibrations in your entire body, at first in your chest and then your throat, jaws and your head. Besides oxygenating your lungs and having a relaxing and de-stressing effect, it will prepare you men- tally to accept and cope with your pain.
8) Perform the exercise Paradise and use all your senses to experience the place as intensely as possible. Expand the exercise by observing yourself moving around in your paradise, light as a feather and without any tension or pain. Make sure your breath is as smooth and effortless as your weightless walk. In time, you will also be able to lower the sen- sitivity in the area of the brain where pain impressions are processed, whereby the discomfort seems less severe.
*VICTORIOUS BREATH (UJJAYI)
The exercise is extremely simple: When you inhale, make a little constriction in your throat to produce an even hissing sound. I believe you can describe the sound as being a bit “dry” - almost like a whisper. If you say “ngg” when you inhale, I am quite sure that you are on track. The entire sound is somewhat like “nggeeeeeeeh”. Try bringing your breath to a halt several times during the same breath – that is says “ngg”, “ngg”, “ngg” – then you will soon sense which part of the throat to move. Remember to keep the rest of your head and face completely relaxed. When you exhale, you can produce the sound “uee”. The entire sound is “uee – hhhhh”. When you learn to control where and how to constrict the throat, you can leave out the “ngg” and “uee” and just let the breath flow to the sounds of “eeeeeeehhh” during inhalation and “hhhhhhh- heee” during exhalation.
The sound you are hearing is an amplified version of the sound that occurs naturally when you breathe. According to the ancient scriptures, this sound is a kind of repeating prayer – a mantra that sounds like “so- ham”. The key to Victorious Breath is the slight constriction in the throat, since this enables you to completely control the flow of air. By varying the degree of constriction in the throat, you can determine the amount of air that enters (or exits) and its velocity. It is the key to your perfect breath, and no other exercise is higher, stronger or more effective than Victorious Breath. You can perform it anywhere, standing, walking, lying down, running or swimming. Apart from the altogether calming effect, Victorious Breath is also useful to people who suffer stress, depression and asthma. Victorious Breath is applied to all asanas and as a fundamental element of many other pranayama exercises.
May this information be of use.