Cold Hands and Freezing Feet
Oregon winters are cold, damp and gray. The sun, if it can be seen at all (which doesn’t happen often mind you), doesn’t even rise above the tree line. There are many places with colder temperatures and much harsher winter weather, but our special combination of elements here makes for a penetrating chill from October to April.
For me, winter weather always went hand-in-glove with frigid fingers and feet. Handshakes were always accompanied with an apology: “Sorry about my freezing hands”, and a shriek from my wife went she made first contact with my feet at night.
I hadn’t thought much about it though for quite a while until a recent email from a woman named Julie. She had recently purchased a copy of Perfect Breathing and wanted to know if we could offer some advice or a remedy for chronically cold hands and feet. It was then that I realized that it was no longer an issue for me and had not been for years.
I’m guessing this is most likely due to my focus on changing my breathing from the short, shallow pattern that nearly every adult has adopted (due to our mostly sedentary, nearly always sitting work and lifestyles) to a slower, deeper breath. Other than that, not much else has changed lifestyle-wise for me.
Slower, deeper breathing increases circulation. Short, shallow breathing activates the “fight or flight” response which causes your veins and capillaries to constrict, limiting circulation in the far reaches of your body, e.g. fingers and toes. Full, deep, deliberate breathing conversely causes your veins and capillaries to dilate which takes some load of your heart and allows it to push that warm, red, fuel-laden blood out to the furthest reaches of your body.
There are a number of exercises that can help you thaw out your extremities. The first is creating the habit of using the Six Second Breath - inhale for 3 seconds, hold and then exhale for 3 seconds. This will not only help improve your circulation, but provide you will a host of other benefits to your health, emotions, and physical/mental/creative performance – enough to fill a book (actually, we did: insert shameless promotion for Perfect Breathing here).
There are a couple of other techniques that will also be helpful to you:
Energy Wave Breathing, and Sunrise Breathing both combine movement with breathing. They are simple exercises that can be done in a couple of minutes. Energy Wave breathing can be done anywhere, anytime while Sunrise Breathing requires you to be standing and have a small amount of room to move.
Healing Breath is the other exercise that you can do anywhere, but is most effective if you are able to lie down. It can be done in 7-10 minutes and is very powerful.
To give you an example of just how effective these techniques can be, read our article about Tibetan monks who live high up in the snowy Himalayan mountains and use a technique called Tumo to help them generate a lot of body heat.
Take these techniques to heart, and your heart will have a much easier time keeping all of your digits at a nice, toasty, 98.6 degrees all winter long!