The power of the breath
A recent experience with a client got me thinking about the power of the breath. This person has Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a condition which affects the central nervous system, and during a recent relapse had been experiencing cramping (or ‘banding’ as it is known) across her abdomen. This caused severe discomfort for hours, sometimes days, on end.
During our session she explained that although the relapse had subsided she was left with a lingering feeling of disconnection from that part of her body. Emotionally, it had become an area over which she had felt she had no control, no sense of ownership.
There was a sadness around the whole thing, as though a part of her had been taken away. The banding may have gone but the echo of the experience still ricocheted around her muscles and emotional memory.
Reclaiming the body
Together we explored reclaiming her body through the breath, inviting gentle exploration and curiosity by getting her to ‘breathe into’ those areas of disconnection.
Using the breath as a tool we were able to shift things along and create more openness. We were able to continue paving the way towards greater acceptance and allowing all things, past and present, to be as they are.
There was a sense of reclamation to the whole thing. Her body became hers again, something to celebrate and appreciate rather than fear and resent. And it all started with a few simple breaths. Isn’t that amazing?
Noticing the breath
Most of the time we in and exhale without a second thought (we might be in a bit of trouble if we had to remember to do it) but bringing some awareness to the breath can have an incredible impact on your wellbeing.
Noticing your breath can help you to feel more connected with yourself and everything around you. It can allow you to feel more grounded and calmer as you go about your business. It can help to root you in the here and now, to focus on what is happening this very second rather than looking back at the past or ahead to the future.
Focussing on the here and now gives you greater access to that true voice inside, the one which tells you how you really are and what you really want in the moment.
This allows you to make more enlightened choices for yourself, conscious choices informed by an inner calm and peace rather than the unconscious autopilot which governs so much of our lives. And all you have to do to get there is breathe.
Ways to bring more awareness
Have you ever noticed how your breath changes when you’re stressed? Perhaps it becomes shallow. You might even find yourself holding on to it, almost forgetting to breathe.
In situations where we feel worried or unsure of ourselves for whatever reason, our breath tends to take note and follow suit. It’s like a gauge for what’s going on inside, an internal barometer that you can tune in to at any point.
There are lots of ways to bring more awareness to your breath. It’s amazing what can happen when you begin to take notice.
One of the easiest ways to take notice is to do just that, notice. Where do you feel your breath the most? Is it in the rise and fall of your shoulders? The expansion of your chest? Whatever happens when you breathe, allow yourself to pay attention. What do you witness?
Visualisation can be a powerful way to pay attention. Close your eyes and breathe normally. Imagine your breath as a gold light which softens and nourishes the body as you inhale and relaxes and calms the body as you exhale.
Perhaps the light gets bigger and brighter as you breath in and smaller and duller as you breathe out. Perhaps your breath becomes a wave rolling in and out of the shore. Invite yourself to explore and play with whatever feels right for you.
Your entire body is affected by your breath. Place your hands on your abdomen, your chest or even your neck or shoulders and notice what happens as you breathe. Are there any surprises? Anything you didn’t expect? Get curious with your body, find out what happens when you breathe.
Sit or stand tall
The way you hold yourself every day has a significant impact on the way you breathe. Think about a time when you felt low or a bit unsure of yourself. What effect did those feelings have on your posture? How do you think that posture affected your breath?
Be kind to yourself
Remember, these are just suggestions. There are no right or wrong ways to breathe. Your breath belongs to you and you can use it any way you want, any time you want. You always have total control over your own wellbeing.
On the couch
Holistic massage is a great way to explore the breath. As well as providing a safe, nurturing space in which you can simply be as you are and leave everything else at the door, a professional massage can also create space within your body.
Typically when we think of the muscles involved in breathing we think of the more obvious ones like the diaphragm or the intercostal muscles. But the reality is that your entire body is affected by your breath. Your hips, your lower back muscles, the muscles in your neck and shoulders. All the pieces matter, they all have a part to play.
If a client comes to me looking to work with their breath (perhaps they are stressed and feel like they can’t get enough air in their lungs) as well as thinking about the ‘big players’ I might consider working on, for example, their neck.
Massaging some of these less obvious areas, which work just as hard for you when you breathe, can free up tension, lengthen muscle fibres and encourage both the body and the mind to let go of old ways of being.
Yours for the taking
The best thing about the breath is that it’s yours to do whatever you want with. You have total control over when, how and if you choose to use it. It’s like an in-built, wellbeing tool kit you can access wherever, whenever you want to. Pretty cool huh?
But if you want to take things a step further and allow yourself a space in which you can feel supported in your exploration then I’m always here. A holistic massage with me is a partnership, something we do together. I would love to hear your story and work with you on a treatment plan. Feel free to get in touch for more information.