Monday, January 10, 2011

the breath of life

In a few of my past posts I have noted the importance of breath in our lives. Ok, you can laugh at this  nevertheless we all take breathing for granted. Most of us do not even know how to breathe properly. Many of us don't breathe fully or deeply and because of that we don't get the full benefits from our amazing ability to breathe.
A friend of mine who is particularly good at breathing, well truth be told I am lucky enough to have a handful of  friends that are cognizant of the importance of breath in their lives. But this particular friend of mine said to me the other day, "we are good at something! We are good at oxygen!!" and its true we are getting better and better at the art of breathing.
Breathing gets little to no press. In fact it took yoga being in vogue, home births and birthing centers,Lamaze classes and counselling for many of us to ever begin to recognize the import of HOW we breathe and how much we take this simple involuntary action for granted.
On a daily basis, no matter where I am I encounter a variety of people. Some I know well and some I don't really know at all. However, because I have become more aware of my own breathing, I am also more aware of how others do or don't breathe.
There are so many ways of breathing and some are more useful to us than others.  It is important to be aware of your own breath as you speak. When you are aware of your breath it is just one step closer to being aware of what you are feeling because our breath changes with your thoughts and feelings. If you put one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your solar plexis you can feel the breath as it moves inside your body. With emotion you can feel it excelerate or slow down...or stop when we hold our breath!! Knowing when in a conversation to stop and take a breath or two, is so important. Like in music there are actual places to break and breathe before you continue singing. This is to give your voice fullness! How many of us want to really be able to experience the fullness of our inner voices?
For the most part I hear  high chest breathing or sighing.This high chest breathing we are taught to do in childbirth classes to "get over the pain" to "work through the contraction" I observe this kind of breathing a lot in interactions between people. Its not bad, its not wrong, it could be way more useful to these people if they stopped and took a breath  or two while continuing to share their thoughts and feelings. This is key I think. Sometimes people find it more difficult to voice their opinion or feelings.  So when they try their voices become higher (not louder) and their breathing becomes constricted or its the other way their breathing becomes constricted so their voices become higher or tighter.
What that says to me is that it is an effort for this person to be present in that moment  and with whom they are speaking and I do not even think they are aware of it.   If a breath is taken here there is a chance your muscles will relax and  can drop into your feeling body as your  breath deepens you may  be able to experience really  "feeling your feelings" with practice.
Sighing is often a symptom of depression. Years ago a wise counsellor explained that to me.  A sigh is a breath that has been released after holding it for a period of time. Sometimes we hold our breath and don't even realize we are doing this. Holding your breath and sighing is a good indication that we might  holding on to our feelings and thoughts tightly and when it gets too hard to hold them we release the breath. An audible sigh comes forth.  If we take the time it is amazing what we can notice about our breathing and our life. Interesting eh?