Back when I was being life coached for pain relief my life coach Abigail Steidley asked me how I was breathing at that moment. I stopped to take a moment to notice how I was breathing. “Oh my gosh,” I replied, “I don’t think I am!” We both laughed for a second. Holy moly! I was either not breathing at all or I was taking in the smallest little gasps of air every minute or so.
That moment was a bit of a revelation. Actually, no, it was a huge revelation. It was during that weekend that I experienced a different type of contentment I had not experienced before. A contentment so filled with love that I even cried out of pure joy a few times. And trust me, I had not felt very content or joyful for quite a while prior to this revelation. That weekend I started focusing on how I was breathing, meaning, I was making sure I was breathing. When you are paying attention to the way you are breathing it forces you to jump into the present moment because you are not all tangled up in your thoughts. You can’t be mindful of breath and caught up in worrisome thoughts at the same time. That’s the beauty of breath!
That weekend when I was so enthralled with my breathing my pain wasn’t taking up all of my attention anymore. And the result of thinking less about my pain was feeling less pain! I still had pain but it just didn’t have the same hold over me. I was too stinkin’ happy about learning how to breathe! I was excited to see where this could take me in my healing journey.
Fully breathing into my low belly has been one of the most helpful and healing tools I could have ever learned (or maybe, more accurately, re-learned). It may seem silly and completely obvious, but it’s quite astounding how many of us aren’t fully breathing. When we are “stressed out” our nervous system switches to the sympathetic response, which automatically changes our breathing from full body breaths to shallow chest breaths. The reason this happens is so that all of our energy and blood goes to our limbs so we can flee from whatever is endangering us. The problem is that today’s stress is different from our stress in the good old days. We don’t so much have to run from tigers, lions, and bears (oh my) anymore. Our stress accumulates from thoughts and fears created in our mind. Translation: fleeing really won’t help or save us anymore! We can’t run away from our thoughts like we can a tiger. There really is no escaping unless we shine a light on our thoughts and see them for what they are. If we don’t do this, and most of us don’t, our stress lingers, which means our sympathetic response keeps on firing and our breathing remains shallow and unhealthy. The oxygen isn’t able to circulate fully throughout our body, and pain is more likely say hello due a body that isn’t able to function optimally.
The amazing thing about the breath is that the minute we focus on it and pay attention to it, it will automatically switch to a fuller, deeper breath, which means it flicks the switch from the sympathetic response to the parasympathetic, rest and digest, response. The response in which healing occurs because oxygen is freely flowing throughout our entire body. Our entire body can work its magic because it’s being bathed in oxygen.
Ahhh. If that doesn’t sound peaceful, I don’t know what does. 🙂