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I registered some time ago, but this is actually my first post. It's a bit long, sorry!
I'm seeking help with a strange problem I haven't heard anyone else discuss. Basically, I have trouble breathing when I meditate. The problem also happens to some degree outside meditation, whenever I sit in any good straight-backed position without back support, sitting in front of the chair or zafu, allowing my lower back / lumbar to curve naturally.
Basically, it feels like my breathing is somehow restricted/constricted/obstructed. When I try to allow the breath to go as naturally and without interference as possible, it seems that the exhalation is not complete. The lungs at the belly area seem to go from 100% full at the end of the inhalation to 90% full at the end of the exhalation. Then, when the next inhalation occurs, there's not enough room for the incoming air, and so it feels a bit painful as the belly tries to expand more than it can. If I consciously control my breath, I can force the exhalation to push all the air out, but this does not happen naturally, and requires forced conscious breathing. Also, after this, the inhalation is very forceful and fast.
All in all this causes a great deal of discomfort and a feeling of being constantly a bit out of breath. It makes my mind wander like crazy, and meditation is nearly impossible, becoming a constant teeth-grinding struggle.
I have meditated for many years semi-regularly, but because I'm chronically ill (CFS), most of the time I meditate lying down, where I don't have this problem. However, in that position dullness, torpor and falling (half-)asleep are problems. I noticed this breathing-problem slightly under a year ago, when I started again to sometimes meditate while sitting on a chair or on a zafu.
I'm mystified about what could be going on, but here's some background that could be relevant. Because I'm ill and have low energy, I've spent quite a lot of time in bad positions, e.g. working on the laptop while sitting on the bed, supported by pillows. These tend to push the back into a slouching position. Perhaps the muscles around my belly have tensed up or shortened due to bad postures and lack of stretching. I've now started to stretch the front of my torso daily by lying on an exercise ball for a moment, but so far it hasn't made a difference.
Also, because my (lower) back is quite curved, in the past I thought it's too curved, and tried to straighten it up by tucking in the tailbone, for example when meditating. If I do that now (i.e. tuck the tailbone in and reduce the curvature of the lumbar), it helps the breathing a bit, but then my mid-back starts hurting very badly after about 10 minutes.
Also, not sure if it's relevant, but I had epidymitis and seminal vesiculitis last October, a bit before I noticed this issue. They were treated heavily with antibiotics, but there are still some sensations in the area of the vesicles (i.e. near the bladder). So, maybe there might still be some low-level inflammation somewhere there, which could affect the situation.
Finally, maybe it could be that my diaphragm or some other muscles related to breathing are weak.
Anyhow, does anyone have any idea what could be going on here, or what to do about it? Any exercises, stretches, yoga positions, breathing exercises etc I could try? Or any place where I could search for more information?
Thanks a lot!