Around four years ago I started practising yoga and was blessed to have a teacher who really concentrated and stuck with the breath. Whatever position we found our bodies in during practice she kept bringing us back to our breathing. Outside of the classroom I began to notice my breath more often and found that I would hold my breath if I was anxious, or sometimes I would not breathe out fully, almost like not wanting to let go. When we find ourselves in trauma, perhaps due to an accident of some kind, we are told by the medics to breathe. Breathing helps us to connect with ourselves again and aids us in bringing us back to the moment.
I came across an elderly woman recently who needed to use a public toilet, she was really struggling to walk unaided. I took her arm and slowly we began to make our way to the bathroom. She was anxious and distressed, and with each small and slow step that she took, her body began to shake. The shaking was clearly upsetting her and she said “It’s this shaking, why does my body do this”? I could see that she found it hard to accept that her body was not doing what she wanted it to and this was creating more anxiety and so on. I asked her if we could stop for a moment and I asked her to concentrate on her breathing and to forget the shaking for a moment. Together we got our breath’s in sync, in a simple in for 3 and out for 3 fashion, and we spent a minute or so practising this. In her own time she began to walk again with me and we kept our breathing practice going while we made our way to the bathroom. This exercise had a dulling effect on her shaking. The shaking became secondary and her breathing became primary and although the shakes were still present she seemed much more in control of her situation.
You can find your best friend, healer and spiritual teacher in your breathing. It is widely recognised, in most spiritual practices, that breathing is essential as it is closely associated with our emotions and well being. Strong emotions have a profound affect on our breathing, if we get angry our breath tends to be held or if we are scared the same may happen. When we are feeling love strongly our breathing is also affected and we tend to hold our breath in certain areas like the belly or the diaphragm. The breath seems to be stuck there.
Throughout the day I try to reconnect with my breathing and try to make it my constant friend and companion. It shows me when something in me needs attention. My belly may be tight, and I try to breathe through the tightness, or I may find my shoulders stiff and upright and I breathe and relax that part of the body. Using my mind to notice what is going on inside me seems much more complicated and so I rely on my breath as an indication of just where I am at. Breathing mindfully and being aware of our breathing tends to lesson the full impact to whatever we are holding. We are not as caught up in whatever is happening inside of us, or externally, and this can be settling as this helps us to stay in the present moment. The breath becomes our anchor and helps us when we feel that we are spinning out of control and remains our lifeline when the mind wants to run and project.
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor ~ Thich Nhat Hanh