Learning to Breathe Again
“When did you start holding your breath?”
I hadn’t noticed that I wasn’t breathing but, as it turned out, I wasn’t. Luckily, my therapist noticed and started riding my rear about it. That was the first time the issue even appeared on my radar. Not much came of it, outside of her office at least, but I was alerted to my tendency to restrict my breath while frustrated or sad or nervous. You know… the things one might feel in a therapist’s office.
In my last post, I spilled the beans about my roundness, vanity, and holding my breath. I promised to share some of the pieces of the Breathe puzzle which expanded my awareness and supported my healing around this habit. I realize now that an inclusive list would be more book chapter than blog post. So, I’m going to break it up into two posts and share the pieces that have come through my newish Kundalini Yoga practice in a separate post next time.
Notice Your Breath – It was my dear friend and early life coach who finally went beyond the nagging reminder to breathe and asked me when I stopped breathing fully. I reflected for a moment before whispering the surprising answer that was pounding about in my brain, “I’m not sure I ever did!” Even though I’d been asked about it before, I honestly hadn’t stopped to notice my breathing patterns, how often I held my breath, and the simple decision to notice myself in this way was incredibly insightful. Breathing dysfunction discovered! Sound the alarms!
Breathe Into A Book – That same woman helped me notice that my breaths were incredibly shallow. When I inhaled, there was only a subtle movement at the top and center of my chest. She encouraged me to breathe into my diaphragm… and I didn’t know how. She invited me to lie on the floor with a book on my belly, just between my breasts and belly button. She told me to breathe deeply enough to move the book. Diaphragm located!
Breathe Into Your Hand – The Pilate’s instructor (from the previous post) was digging my book on the belly trick but informed me that the lungs aren’t just hanging out in the front of my body waiting to be expanded forward. She put her hand on my left side, on the bottom few ribs, and invited me to breathe into her hand. I did. She moved a few inches to the back left side (same vertical location, on the bottom few ribs) and said to breathe into her hand. I did. I was shocked. I had no idea that my lungs could hold so much air.
We did this all the way around and I practiced with my own hand at home until I could do it without the prompt. Now when I breathe, I can still feel my default shallow breath trying to have it’s way with me but I can make a choice to breathe more deeply. I fill my upper chest, then out in front in my lower chest, and finally out to the sides and back. Lungs actually used!
Breathe Into Your Feelings – I found out while watching a scary movie that I hold my breath when I’m afraid. The awareness allowed me to chose to continue breathing when I felt alarmed. I noticed the same once when I was watching a sad movie. I hold my breath to keep my emotions in. When emotion surges up, tightening my throat, filling my eyes with tears… I swallow it down and hold my breath. It’s an attempt to keep from feeling sadness (or whatever). It doesn’t actually work. Instead, I can keep breathing and watch as the tears pour down my cheeks. That’s living. That’s healing. Emotions welcome!
Breathe Intuitively – I went through a spell where my nervousness and overwhelm surged into quite regular full-on panic/anxiety attacks. They sucked. I hated taking the meds that the doctor said would make them stop. One night, during a particularly powerful attack, I fled the chaos of the family room (big screen tv turned up too loud, children fussing, and my now ex-husband frustrated about something that felt unreasonable).
I was overcome with a need for silence, darkness, and solitude. In my bedroom, I instinctively hit my knees, buried my face in the edge of my bedding, and inhaled and exhaled powerfully and rhythmically until it was over. I didn’t have instruction for this one, just a need… and I honored it.
Next time, I’m going to share the life-changing puzzle pieces that I picked up throughout my journey with Kundalini Yoga. It’s still a relatively short trip but I’ve learned so much and I can’t wait to share it with you!
I’d love to hear your feedback on these first puzzle pieces. Do you have techniques you can share with us? What about questions, do these first few pieces leave you wondering? Give them a try and let me know what you find? Are you breathing?