To me breathing had always been one of the things that our body just does automatically. And I was glad about that, because my traumatic past left me with no desire to pay attention to my body whatsoever.
That is, until I decided to partake in a yoga teacher training. During the training I started reading a book on breathing. When it first came in the mail as one of the main reads, I laughed out loud that there was a whole book entirely devoted to breathing. Wasn’t this something we already knew how to do? I mean, how else would we all still be running around alive?
It didn’t take long until I noticed how mistaken I was. The more I got into the book the more fascinated I became. Was I really breathing into my chest all the time? How the heck, where you supposed to breathe into your belly and not feel like you were getting yourself bloated on purpose?
During the first weekend workshop, we actually spend every day paying attention to our breath and were purposefully breathing into different parts of our body. I would find myself at the end of the workshop days standing in front of the mirror, watching if I could see my breath expand various places in my body. I was speechless that by the second day my body was sorer from breathing than I had been from any exercise in the past. I would have laughed it off, if that wouldn’t have hurt so much.
I was hooked. As soon as I came home, I posted notes all over my apartment and in my office about different breathing patterns and set myself timers to remember to check-in with my breathing throughout the day. If somebody had asked me back in the day, what my favorite hobby was, I might have had to answer “Breathing”. Being able to alter the patterns of your breathing and evoke the feelings of more balance and calmness was not something I had experienced in the past.
Up until that point, I had ignored my body, except at times it had demanded my attention. Yoga and learning the subtle art of breathing opened up a gateway of feeling grateful for the body I was given, which was a definite first for me.
It became my lifeline to assist me in moments that otherwise felt completely overwhelming, I had practiced it so much in moments of feeling safe, that it became easier and easier to bring my attention to it in moments I felt completely out of control. The biggest one of those times has been, when I was pregnant with my daughter. While I really wanted to have my one child (never wanted more than one), I was terrified of pregnancy. My body had been taken in the past against my will. Having a human inside of me who would take away the control I worked so hard on gaining was not an easy choice.
But I had faith in my ability to breathe through it. All it would take was one breath at a time. Nothing more, nothing less. Just one breath after another. So for the duration of my pregnancy, I would retreat to a room by myself and sit down and breathe. What started out with a lot of tension and fear, slowly over time moved into the most beautiful time of my life. When she became big enough for me to feel her inside of me it freaked me out at first. Then I decided that I had the obligation to share my breathing practice with her. Whenever we retreated into the room together, I would have internal dialogues with her in which I promised to breathe in deeply and provide her with the most valuable oxygen to let her grow and thrive, and take away any waste with each of my outbreath. And so I did. I used breathing, when she went wild in my stomach. I used it through Braxton Hicks imagining her to calm down with each breath. And I finally used it during her delivery.
I am 100% convinced, I would have not been able to do the delivery the way I did without having become a student of the breath. I also attribute my daughter’s general calm nature to her time breathing with me. We still use breathing as a way of calming each other down (she reminds me in moments, when we both can’t stop uncontrollably laughing about our silliness).
Breathing has made me a more confident person. It has gotten me through really rough times, even to this day. It is slowly helping me to unlock more and more parts of my body that I was previously not letting myself have access to. It has and still is the most valuable part in my healing journey.
If you haven’t tried it yet, I encourage you to spend some quality time with your breath. It might add a whole new world of possibilities to your life.