remember your breath
the foundation of all movement
breathe yourself open
How often do you actively think about breathing during your day?
For most people, the answer is not much.
That is, in part, by design.
It’s the one thing nobody taught us how to do. We’ve been doing it since we were born and it happens automatically.
Breathing is something that is easy to forget about and take for granted.
It’s a habit.
If we actively thought about it all the time we’d get nothing else done.
But it turns out that it’s important to think about it at times. Just because you do it automatically doesn’t mean you’re doing it effectively.
You may not even notice how often you’re not doing it at all.
When it comes to breathing we often think about the importance of the inhale — taking in the oxygen that the body desperately needs. But the exhale is also important.
We often don’t notice when we are holding our breath — not letting out the exhale.
For example, studies have shown that it’s common for people to hold their breath unconsciously when they check email — a phenomenon known as “email apnea.”
Several years ago I noticed that I held my breath when I was writing responses to emails. Sometimes I notice myself holding my breath when reading the news, checking social media, or writing a blog post.
I’ll notice it when I’m engaged in physical activity, like when I’m holding a yoga pose or standing on the flying trapeze platform ready to take off the board.
Holding in the breath is a common physiological response that indicates fear. It’s part of the fight-flight-freeze response to perceived danger. This is the “freeze”: when we hold our breath, the body tenses and becomes stiff.
Holding the breath in dangerous situations is part of our primal wiring — a response meant to keep us safe. If you’re in the wild and a predator is approaching, it may not notice you if you don’t move. If you’re not breathing, it can’t hear you.
Of course, that response doesn’t make sense when the “predator” is your inbox or an email or your creative work. And it actively works against you in physical activity.
Your body needs the breath to move. Breath is the lubricant that opens the joint spaces and softens the muscles.
The exhale in particular is a sign of trust: when we let the breath out, it’s a signal that we trust we will receive more oxygen for our next inhale. Letting go of what we have received and no longer need is a sign of trust that we will receive more.
It’s not just the act of breathing that is important; the sound of our own exhale — as occurs with an audible sigh — sends a signal to our nervous system through the auditory sense that we are safe. It helps create a sensory feedback loop.
I’ve noticed that exhaling with an intentional sound helps my body relax more quickly.
Breathing may come naturally, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve it.
With practice, we can learn how to use the breath to heal ourselves and release the tension we hold in our bodies.