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Published on April 11, 2019

Signs of a Nervous Breakdown (And How to Survive It)

Signs of a Nervous Breakdown (And How to Survive It)

Life is full of contrast, which means that up’s and downs are a given. Although when the lows get to a point where there’s an inability to function and getting through the day is questionable, attention to your mental wellness is much needed.

Whether you feel like you’ve come close to breaking down completely or not, this article can help you identify symptoms that frequent negative mental states. With awareness, you can learn about symptoms and gain knowledge about self care practices in order to help boost your energy and get you back on your feet when you feel like falling apart.

With that said, it’s important to realize that we all need help at one time or another in life. It’s unfortunate that a lot of us walk around carrying large amounts of stress and worry that we keep to ourselves because we have created the story that “we should” be able to handle things on our own. That could not be the furthest thing from the truth.

I believe and have seen for myself that a strong and successful person knows when to get and ask for help.

As you’ve probably heard before, everything in life has a process and takes time, as does getting to the point where you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Little ways of not listening to your needs and self care eventually lead to huge cracks that become apparent within your mood and the overall state of your life. Not functioning properly is a sign that you’re off and out of balance. To what degree is what determines how close you are to breaking down completely emotionally.

However, being on the verge of a nervous breakdown is a severe state of mind and body. It deserves and demands serious attention.

Signs of a Nervous Breakdown

Awareness is always the first step toward helping yourself, therefore here are some tell tale signs that your attention to your self care and wellness is needed, like STAT.

1. You Feel Totally Out of Balance

When your mental, physical and spiritual self is out of balance, you will not be functioning well.

Being off balance will effect and show up in all ares of your life: relationships, work, health, etc.

Some of us can feel “off” for a day or so and then find our footing. Even if your “off” lasts for weeks and months at a time, this can be a sign that there’s a bigger issue to address.

2. Your Self Care Is Close to Zero

The energy that you give toward your self care acts as the foundation of how you show up in your life. When you’re struggling emotionally, often, self care is the first thing to go.

Forgetting to eat, eating too much, sleeping too much or sleeping too little. Eating unhealthy foods, not exercising and moving your body properly and not connecting socially with others. These are all ways that you neglect taking good care of yourself, which eventually will have a major consequence.

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3. You Lost Your Joy

When you lose your excitement and curiosity for life, it’s hard to feel and be happy.

Note to self: Nothing is worth losing your joy over.

Living to others expectations, doing for everyone other than yourself, feeling unheard in your relationships and feeling lost in your life are all ways that joy can get depleted.

Feeling joy is what living a good life is all about, so when it’s gone that’s a huge red flag.

4. Your Physical Body Is Doing All Sorts of Strange & Unhealthy Things

Your physical body holds your hard emotions, which is why stress that stays stuck in the physical body, often turns into illness.

Your body is always communicating with you via your symptoms. Your body is and will always be talking to you, sometimes screaming if you don’t listen initially.

When you’re nearing a nervous breakdown, here are some physical signs that you can experience:

  • Tight muscles
  • Sleep disturbance
  • High Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite or increase
  • Reaching for substances/activities to cope or fill a void whether it be alcohol, drugs, food, sex, etc.
  • Scattered energy, going to fast, fight or flight energy
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression, extreme sadness
  • Mood swings

Pay attention to your body because it’s always talking to you through your physical sensations and symptoms.

5. You Have Thoughts of Self Harm

Thoughts of self harm and getting to a point where you’re seriously thinking about taking your own life is a serious matter. This state of mind needs professional attention and is a clear tale sign that you’ve hit the bottom and need help getting back up.

Now that you have some awareness around what entails the brewing and growth of living at a mentally unbalanced level, it can be life changing for you to have tools to get yourself back into balance, back into your body and back into a more peaceful state of mind.

How to Deal with a Nervous Breakdown

Here are some ways to get your good vibes to start flowing again:

1. Press the Pause Button

Learning, universally, to go slower in your life will be to your advantage.

Take time to do the little things that bring you joy because, guess what, it’s usually a combination of all the little things lumped together that elevate your level of happy.

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Another side effect of going slower in your life is the ability to see, hear and view things from another perspective. When you’re walking the path of life vs. sprinting, your eye has more time to observe and retain information presented.

Looking at your life and taking the time to slow and pause long enough to catch your breath, and make sure that you’re going in a direction that you want to go is so important.

When we pause long enough, we turn off that “auto pilot” function from within which lets us see if what we’ve been doing “just because it’s what we do” is serving us.

When in doubt: Pause and then proceed

2. Remember That Less is More

There’s a false message in our world that more is better and it’s just not so.

Quality over quantity, friends.

Think about the things in life that really matter. You can have thousands of “friends” on social media, but when you’re in the mist of a major life struggle, who do you call?

Value what really matters. Take the time to trim the fat out of your life that is just created noise, not joy.

3. Clean House

Once you’ve gone over the reality of what you’re giving your time too with a fine toothed comb, it’s time to clear out and rid of what’s not serving you. I’m referring to both an internal and external level clean out.

Look at your living space, work space, and internal world. I recommend starting with cleaning out external objects as often it’s easier for us to work with things we can see, touch and feel.

Clean out items and rid of objects that are simply just taking up space. A great book to read to inspire and help you navigate this task is: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

4. Clean Up Your Mind Space

After you’ve cleared your external space, you might feel and have more of a knowing for where to begin with your internal mind space, as they are connected.

I would point you toward looking at your habits, your relationships and generally speaking, how you spend the hours of your life. What you spend your precious time doing is what creates your reality. Change your habits and you will change your life.

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Pay attention to the internal thoughts and voice that is playing constantly in your head. Get in tune with what this voice is saying, as if it’s separate from you, an inner roommate, if you will.

Spend time evaluating if this is a negative or positive roommate. If you notice that the messages and words from this voice are critical, that’s great information for you to become aware of. If you notice that your internal voice happens to be bringing you down, you can work on changing the tape to something way more uplifting.

A thorough look at your core beliefs can also be of great benefit. What we believe to be true about ourselves dictates our thoughts, which influences our actions and creates our reality.

Our beliefs are really that big of a deal. They have the power to make or break us, therefore, make sure you have laid down some pretty solid beliefs for yourself.

5. Get in Nature Baby

I cannot express this enough. Getting out where you’re exposing yourself to the natural rhythm of the life cycle and breathing in fresh air offers a huge reset.

Making a point to get in nature as much as possible, especially for those of you working in tight, closed office environments is beyond important for your health and mood.

Being in natural elements is healing: Straight up. Consistently giving yourself the gift of being in nature will help elevate your mood and enhance your level of functioning. It’s the best thing for the health of your body, mind and spirit.

6. Move Your Body

If you’re not moving your body in some shape or form regularly, that can be a huge reason why your mind and body feel so unstable.

Getting your blood pumping and releasing toxins and negative energy greatly strengthens your life force.

Beyond inviting you to go to a gym (Go for it if that’s your jam), I invite you to tap into an activity that you really connect to and enjoy.

Best case scenario is that this activity is outside, so you can get a two for one with exposing yourself to nature as you do something healthy for your physical body.

Walk the beach, skateboard, take a mountain trip to ski or snowboard, go surf, paddle board, kayak, go hike, do yoga, dance, bike ride, etc. The options are endless, but my biggest encouragement is for you to find an activity that you feel connected too.

Moving your physical body is a key component to being a healthy person.

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7. Trust Life

Often we become very stressed, fearful and full of anxiety, all things that can lead to a complete mental break, when we’re living in a doubtful and lack mindset.

Believing that we have to be the ones to figure everything out is a substantial amount of pressure for us to put on ourselves.

Let me invite you for a minute to think about a situation in your life that was a really amazing, exciting and special moment. I’m going to go out on a limb and ask you if you had to do anything to create that moment? Or, did the moment just come and go without your need to direct it, orchestrate it and make it be?

My point with asking you this is that, often, the unexpected and special moments of life are not planned. As much as we’re conditioned in this life to plan in order to succeed, I want to offer you the perspective that whatever is meant to be with you will find its way to you. This doesn’t involve you having to stress or work for it to come. Sometimes, the reason we are struggling so intensely is because we’re holding on too tight and trying to control.

With that said, I’m not suggesting that all you have to do is just sit, do nothing and get what you want. Nope. Your “work” is to do your best to take care of yourself and honor where your curiosity and happiness are pointing.

By attending to yourself, doing good things for yourself, making good choices for yourself, you will naturally be lead to more positive and fruitful opportunities and people that will continue to improve the quality of your life.

Final Thoughts

To sum this all up, if you’re struggling currently with your emotional state and have enough awareness to be reading this article, you also have the opportunity to start doing things to help turn your situation around.

Like now.

Acknowledging what’s happening to you and seeking help, while slowly chipping away and letting go of the habits and ways of thinking that are holding you back will help you gain the momentum to start improving your life.

Remember, little by little. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself toward creating a better state of mind. Start slow and begin to do one small thing that’s supporting your growth, rather than taking from it. Begin there.

Cheers to you creating consistent and healthy new habits that will help change the quality of your life and mind, which will ultimately help you to feel relief in a time of heavy emotional pain.

Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

More by this author

Kim Egel

Kim Egel is a licensed therapist whose private practice is centered around the concepts of the mind, body & soul connection.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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