Have you ever taken a moment to stop on a busy day only to realize that you weren't breathing? Or maybe you were breathing so shallow that there was no rise and fall in your chest or abdomen.
When I was a nursing student we had to observe the breathing of our patients as part of an assessment. A fellow nursing student was observing my breathing and found that she had a very hard time counting my breaths because there was no noticeable movement in my chest. That was the first time my conscious awareness was ever drawn to my breath. At the time, I didn't think much of it, other than to notice this phenomenon. I thought, well breathing is automatic so it doesn't matter much what is going on as long as it is still happening!
Over the past ten years, I have become much more conscious of my breath and the connection that I have with it. Through mindfulness and learning meditation, it has become an anchor into each present moment for me.
I have come to understand that the breath is one of the most central parts of our being. It can be one of the fastest ways to drop out of racing thoughts into the belly and Being.
When we drop into our breathing and begin to lower our breath into our bellies, there is a profound sense of grounding into ourselves. We are no longer hovering halfway up our chest, or entirely in our minds, but we are supported and rooted through our entire being. This is a powerful connection to have to ourselves.
"When we compromise our breath, we compromise our Being. When our connection to breath is diminished, our connection to ourselves is diminished."
I have been taught in my naturopathic training that the depth of our breath can be related to how deeply we feel into our lives. Our breath may also be related to how we feel inspired (or un-inspired).
In our everyday lives, we encounter thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of messages that encourage us to be more, do more, buy more, all in search of something better or different than what we already have or who we already are. This barrage of information overwhelms the nervous system, creating a sense of overwhelm and chaos. When we step back a moment to take a breath, we give ourselves a moment to step out of this flow of information and feel into who we are at our center.
"Breathing that is rapid, shallow and/or high in the chest indicates sympathetic arousal. Breathing that is very shallow (almost imperceptible) frequently indicates immobility, shutdown and dissociation. Breathing that is full and free with a complete expiration, and a delicate pause before the next inhalation, indicates relaxation and settling into equilibrium."
-Peter Levine in In an Unspoken Voice: how the body releases trauma and restores goodness
In craniosacral therapy, the practitioner orients to the craniosacral rhythm, which creates full body "breath". This breath is in a rhythmic, symmetrical motion. The places where the symmetry or rhythm has changes indicate areas of tension or blockage. These are often places where old memories, emotions, and traumas are stored. When the particular area of the body (or being) comes into balance, there is a noticeable shift in the craniosacral rhythm, or the body "breath". Often release is indicated also by a long, deep spontaneous breath in and out of the lungs.
How do you orient to your breath?