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Fido and Me – Deep breathing

December 2, 2011

Fido is teaching me deep breathing.

“Hey, hey, hey hey!”

He lay on his side and invited me over.

“I have noticed that lots of humans don’t quite get this,” he said, “but once you get the hangdog of it, it’s easy and it will make you feel better.”

I had just passed through a weekend of football — college and pro. During the Iowa-Nebraska game a week ago, I was a total wreck. I can handle a boring game if my guys come out on top, but alas, it was that kind of game and that kind of season.

Lying next to Fido is a little bit like lying alongside an orange-and-black, rolled-up shag rug.
“Okay,” he said, “here’s the deal. Breathe with your stomach instead of your chest.”

He demonstrated what I had observed a million times. Anyone who lives with a dog has seen it, too.
“It is considered by some to be a healthier and fuller way to ingest air,” Fido explained, “and is sometimes used as a therapy for hyperventilation, anxiety disorders and stuttering.”

“I don’t stutter, Fido.”

“This I know. But your anxiety level is off the charts right now.”

“It’s about the Hawkeyes,” I said, but Fido wouldn’t let me up, neither literally nor figuratively.

“You’re a newspaperman,” he said. “High anxiety is part of the job description.”

“I suppose that’s true.”

“OK, here we go,” Fido said. “You have to draw air into the lungs in a way which will expand the stomach and not the chest.”

“This is what you do at night,” I said. “I can actually hear you do this when you’re sleeping.”

“Okay then. Pull the air in with your nose and hold there for about 10 seconds. Then exhale through your mouth. It’s easy!”

I tried it.

“Deep breathing actually fills up the majority of the lungs with oxygen — much more than chest-breathing,” he said. “Dogs know how to do this naturally. I have no idea how humans got so sidetracked.”

I tried it again, but didn’t feel much different, even after four or five times.

“You’re belly breathing, and that’s not it,” Fido said. “It’s hard to explain the difference. But I’m a dog. It’s hard to explain just about everything.

“Andrew Weil says this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice,” Fido said. “Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently.”

“How do you know about Andrew Weil?”

“TV,” he said.

I tried it again, this time the next day during Ohio State at Michigan. My head told me that I was indifferent toward this game, but I could feel my heart racing when the Buckeyes drove late and had a chance at a come-from-behind victory at the Big House.

“Breathe!” Fido commanded.

It helped.

Later in the day, toward dusk, he asked if I was going to MBE to pick up the mail. I said I hadn’t planned on it.

“Are you expecting something?” I said.

Fido closed his eyes and breathed deeply.

“It’ll wait,” he said, and drifted off to sleep.

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