I’ve been working in a more extensive way with the breath with some of my clients lately. How you breath, and where in your body you breath really sets the foundation for finding more balanced alignment and more ease. A lot of yoga, meditation and holistic health teachers give instruction on the breath, but why we do these exercises is often misunderstood. I’m a big fan of a lot of these exercises, but sometimes they take us away from our bodies own natural breathing patterns, especially if we aren’t conscious of why we’re doing them. Believe it or not your brainstem, which regulates the breath when you aren’t paying attention, has a better idea of your needs for breath than you or I can consciously figure out. It’s important to to develop a deep sense of what it feels like to be moved by your own breath and allow it to flow on it’s own before doing yogic breath work. This will help you stay in relationship with the needs of your own nervous system as you begin to do more consciously regulated exercises. The more connected to the natural rhythms of your breath you become, the more you’ll realize that most of breath instruction came from some yogi who sat still and listened to their own body long enough to get a sense of what made them feel more whole, and more connected to their source.
So try this…
Lie on your back and notice your breath. Allow your breath to come and go, without changing anything about it. As you tune in, you may start to notice that each inhale and exhale is different. When you relax, or get excited, shift your thoughts, or become more present, the inhale and exhale will become longer or shorter and the rhythm will change. The natural pattern of the breath is to speed up and slow down, become deeper and shallower, moving in waves. If you’ve ever watched the ocean, you’ve noticed that the waves come in groups of waves called sets. Your breath will do the same thing as your nervous system adjusts to the ever-changing needs of your body. As you watch this ebb and flow, it will bring you to deeper states of calm.
Now, if this is not happening naturally, it may be that something is blocking your natural breath from surfacing. This may help…
Let your mind off the hook, stop breathing, and wait. I promise, if you stop yourself from breathing, you will be forced to take another breath. When you can’t hold it anymore, let the air fill your lungs and rest. Watch what happens next with the question, “what does my body want to do next?” You will probably start to notice a new rhythmic quality to your breath as it moves on it’s own. Try this several times and see if you can tune into the impulse deep inside that is begging you to be breathed and allow this impulse to drive your breath. If you need to reconnect to it again, you guessed it, just stop breathing. The more you relax, the easier it is to feel this impulse, but don’t worry, it will eventually take over, no matter how hard you try to hold your breath.
A word of caution: Big emotions can often come up when working with the breath. If you begin to feel overwhelmed take a break, this exercise should make you feel more connected to yourself.
Staying connected to this impulse is at the foundation of any healthy breathwork or meditation practice.