When you look at your life and think about what you have control over or what you can influence to get the outcome you want, what comes to mind?
For me it’s the breath.
Each breath we take is a reflection of what’s going on in that moment around us, and inside us. Each breath is unique in its length, depth, and speed of inhale and exhale.
I love talking about breath, because it’s so essential. Everything we do is connected to our breath. And, it’s the one thing we have to keep doing. When we stop, that’s the end.
We don’t have to think about breathing because our body does it automatically. But, there’s a great opportunity to imbue our breath with an intentional setting that we can program as part of a more conscious way of being in the moment.
We can choose to be in the moment from one breath to the next, able to bring our intentions through as part of, and connected to our breath.
I’ve had the honor to observe (for over 25-thousand hours) people breathing as part of my massage practice. They come in breathing a certain way, get prepared for their massage, and react to being touched by shifting their breath in some way as the session begins. What happens as the session progresses is what gets really interesting.
The way a person breathes is a reflection of their life. And by becoming more conscious of our breath we change the way we show up in the moment.
I’m not saying that the way we breathe will fix everything in our lives, but it certainly gives us a chance to be more aware of how we’re feeling in the moment. And more importantly, it gives us a way to choose a healthier version of how we react to what’s going on around us and inside us in the moment. The beauty of the breath is that it is a physical cycle with a beginning (inspiration) and end (expiration) in which we get a chance to experience and reinvent ourselves.
And about those people on the massage table; when they return for another massage, their bodies remember the connection of taking a breath and releasing muscles as a progression of training the body to respond to a consciously taken breath.
The way the person takes a breath actually informs the central nervous system, through the cerebellum (motor brain) that you want to have the muscles relax. That conscious breath can then be used when off the massage table to reinvoke the same muscle release.
The body learns that when you take a breath that certain way, you want it to release and relax muscles. You can even direct the breath to relax specific muscle groups. It’s all about programming the breath. I’ll talk more specifically about how this relates to long term healing and musculoskeletal balance and comfort in a future article.
As your breathing practice develops, breathing begins to take on the elements of that practice even when we’re not consciously observing each breath. After all, we do get busy with other things as we go through our day. And there is no guarantee that conscious breathing will help you resolve emotional stresses caused from sadness, anger, anxiety and fear, but it will give you a backdrop from which to observe and maybe let go of old responses that were connected to difficult emotions and stressful situations.
And for some of us, myself included, being conscious of breath may give us just the moment we need to consider appropriate responses before we speak from outdated emotional settings. For others, conscious breathing is a channel to find a connection to joy and happiness that lives on through each breath. I’m all for that. Ah, what a relief.
by Greg Lee