Friday, September 2, 2011


If you stop breathing, you won't live long. In terms of what one needs to survive, breath is at the very top of the list.

There is nothing more soothing than the soft, rhythmic sound of the breath during sleep - unless the sleeper snores, of course. Indeed, deep, rhythmic breathing is the basis of so many healing and spiritual arts, it's mind boggling. It makes sense when you remember has basic breathing is. The reason we have to practice deep, rhythmic breathing is because we humans often interrupt the patterns of breath, sometimes consciously, though ordinarily it's not something we do on purpose. Gasping, sighing, hiccupping, coughing, hyperventilation, sneezing, sobbing or laughing out loud all break the rhythm. Talking is one way we consciously break the rhythm though not many of us are thinking about breath when we talk.

I believe all of the above serves some purpose. For instance, in Chinese medicine it is believed that sighing helps release stress on the liver. I'm sure that's correct, I feel it when I sigh.

Breath is far more complicated than inhale/exhale, hey? I ask my clients all the time if they are breathing. More often than you might expect, this question makes them smile, after which they tell me how often they find themselves holding their breath. Breathing helps bring emotions into awareness, helps the breather understand how she/he is feeling in the moment. When difficult emotions arise, many of us try to shut down the mechanism that brings various discomforts to the surface. I've done it, haven't you?

So tell me, are you breathing right now? Is it shallow or deep, slow or fast? How is your diaphragm this morning? Tight? Soft? Numb?

Tomorrow I'll post some simple breath meditations meant to help us make better use of this most basic living function. Until then, take two deep breaths, please. Then relax your jaw, part your lips very slightly, your teeth very slightly. Relax your tongue. Take two more deep breaths. Ahhhhh. Shalom.


The Bug said...

While I was doing PT with my therapist she would have to periodically remind me to breathe. You're right - it made me smile & then made me realize that in fact I WAS holding my breath.

I could probably benefit from some structured breathing - to remind me of how I should be doing it all the time.

Reya Mellicker said...

They say people experiencing pain hold their breath to squelch fear about what's happening. Makes sense to me!