About a decade ago I got my first tattoo. As expected, my most pressing concern was the pain. The tattoo artist assured me that it was unlikely to be as painful as I imagined. As he started he casually advised me to remember to breathe, to avoid fainting. Apparently many people, in response to the real or anticipated pain, hold their breath to the point of passing out! Crazy.
Our breath is a primal YES and NO to life and its accompanying experiences. Our very first act as independent beings is an inhale, and our last an exhale. We hold our breath to resist; when we fear pain, feel stress and even when we climb on the bathroom scale after a high calorie binge. Conversely when we say yes to an experience we tend to literally take it in with a deep breath; we deeply inhale the first morning of a long-awaited holiday, we infuse our being with relaxation as we sink in to a warm bath after a long day, we to take in a loved one with a deep heart warming breath.
According to author, Margo Anand, the average person inhales about half a litre of air per breath when in fact our lungs can accommodate 7x that much when fully expanded. Babies are great breathers. They have no resistance to life. They breathe into their bellies. When babies breathe you can see their bellies inflate as they fully take in the oxygen and deflate as they exhale all the CO2. Adults breathe much more shallowly. Instead of breathing into their bellies, many breathe into the top of their lungs. This tendency to breathe into the top of the lungs instead of the abdomen has been called “the inhibited breathing pattern”.
Place your hands on your upper chest and take a deep breath, deep enough to push your hands out. Exhale fully. Take two more deeps breaths of this nature. Now place your hands on your abdomen and breathe deeply into your abdomen. Fill your belly with enough air to push your hands out. Exhale fully; from the belly, via the lungs and through the nostrils. Feel yourself expel all the Carbon Dioxide. Do this twice more. Can you feel the difference? A deep breath is superior to a shallow breath and a belly breath is more energising and grounding than one that stops at the lungs. Shallow breathing is like driving with your foot on the brake. Incidentally, the inhibited breath pattern is most prevalent in women.
Are you waiting to exhale? If so, ask yourself why you disapprove of life? Why are you a reluctant participant? What are you resisting? What are you afraid of? What is so stressful? When you deprive yourself of oxygen, you lose out on its numerous benefits. Amongst other things, oxygen:
– Is an immune builder
– Gives you energy
– Promotes healing
– Counteracts aging
– Calms the mind and stabilises the nervous system
Take up exercise, yoga, big belly laughs or whatever else encourages your primal YES to life. Breathe.