Our breath is our connection to life. It is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do when we die. How we relate to our breath is an indication of how we relate to life. If our breath is open, flowing and fully connected chances are we are open, flowing and connected to life.
In the East, they have long been aware that when we breathe, in addition to oxygen, we bring in life force energy, also known as chi or prana. When we restrict our breath we are denying ourselves access to the available energy that is all around us. By using a full open breathing pattern, we can have abundant life energy and greater health.
Breathing deep into the diaphragm also has many physical benefits. It promotes oxygenation of the cells, releases toxins from the body and massages the internal organs leading to greater health. Deep breathing promotes a healthy circulatory system, increases lymphatic drainage and soothes the nervous system. Diaphragmatic breathing has been used with great success to reduce anxiety and stress.
The breath can be an emotional barometer. You may have noticed that when you get upset, angry or afraid, your breathing pattern changes. It may quicken and become shallower. The reverse is true. You can change your emotional state simply by changing your breathing pattern. Taking a moment to tune into your breath and making a conscious effort to slow it down, deepening your inhalation and relaxing your exhalation will change how you are feeling and may change how you are reacting to a situation. It is almost impossible to stay angry if you slow down and deepen your breathing. The key is to remember to tune into your breath during this time. The more we are aware of our breathing in our daily lives, the easier it is to tune into our breath during a stressful situation.
If full, deep breathing is so beneficial and can help us have more energy and a healthier life, one wonders why 90% of the population has some restricted breathing pattern. There are several reasons for why, at times, we have felt the need to restrict our breath. For most of us, it started at birth when the umbilical cord may have been cut prematurely and we had to take that first breath too quickly. We received the message that breathing hurts. As children, we also learned very quickly that if we did not want to feel what was going on around us, or we were uncomfortable, we could block some of those feelings by restricting our breathing. Many times, our first reaction to a traumatic situation is to hold our breath. These reactions may be valid defense mechanisms, but long after the situation has passed, we find we are still holding our breath. This turns into chronic restrictions of the breath. Any accidents, operations or other traumas may also impair our breathing patterns.
How are you breathing right now? Take a moment to place one hand on your abdomen and the other on the center of your chest. Take a deep breath through an open mouth (so that more oxygen can enter the body) and exhale. Take a few more deep inhalations and exhalations. What do you notice? Is there any movement in the abdominal area? Where you restrict your breath is an indication of where you are restricted in life. If there is no movement in the belly area, you may not be as grounded as you would like to be and you may not have a clear sense of focus or purpose. You may also have low back pain, abdominal distress or other symptoms in that area. When you took those deep breaths was there movement in the heart area? If not, you may experience some physical symptoms there. You may also not feel as loving and joyful as you would like. A shallow breath or holding onto the exhalation also has corresponding characteristics.
Awareness is the first step in opening your breath. Learning breathing techniques may also help you breathe more efficiently and effortlessly. Transformational Breathing, the technique that I find the most effective to work with for my clients, and for myself, is a consciously connected breath that opens physical restrictions and releases held emotions and stress for a lighter, clearer state of being. It uses a fairly active breath that moves energy, followed by a period of slower breathing during which people have reported beautiful states of meditation, insights or, at the very least, a sense of deep relaxation. In addition to breathing, this technique also uses sound healing, affirmations and body mapping. Healing your breath can lead to a fuller life, more energy and greater serenity.
Charyl Ozkaya conducts workshops, weekend intensives and private sessions in the breath and has shared this powerful technique in Europe, Costa Rica and the US. She is a NYS licensed Massage Therapist and a Reiki Master/Teacher. Charyl may be reached at 516-532-7633 or at email@example.com.