WONDERS OF THE Breath
It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.
By Wendell Berry
I love this poem and find it’s a good one for the baffling times we face right now. For me (and there are, no doubt, many like me) this time has created an internal shift and given me the courage and impetus I needed to step into a new life. For the past eighteen years I’ve worked in the travel industry and of course, right now, that’s not a great place to be. Demand aside, it’s also been a growing issue for me, supporting an industry that works to contribute to Climate Change, rather than make a positive impact. Don’t get me wrong, I love a holiday as much as the next person, but we need to start to change the way we travel and drop all the multitude of trips and perhaps go back to the way we once did – planning and looking forward to one big trip a year where we spend perhaps two weeks or more away, rather than the several shorter trips we’ve been accustomed to taking these past ten or so years.
I’ve extolled the virtues of the breath for many years now. It began when I started a yoga practice about 20 years ago. Practicing it on a regular basis has come and gone, but there’s always been a belief that learning how to breath better is really good for me – really good for us all. And so, I’ve taken the plunge and am now embarking on a 6-month long teacher training course to be a breath coach, mostly because I believe that most of us have become disconnected to our bodies and let our minds run the show. Breath practices help you reconnect intimately to your body. In doing some research and at the same time, being asked to write this month’s Selsey Life article, I thought I’d share some of the findings in the hope it will inspire you to explore the depths of your breath, too.
Yoga was not always the series of postures you see now, but actually a breath practice holding one pose and breathing into areas of the body to open it up. It’s only in the last 100 years that modern yoga has begun incorporating postures into the practice.
There are literally hundreds of different types of breathing practices. In yogic tradition alone, there are over 400! Most yogic breathing is about breath retention and control. You may have heard of Wim Hof’s method for example (if not, I urge you to check him out, he’s fantastic!) is exactly that, a Pranayama ‘breath control’ method.
There are breath methods to enable your body to relax and others to heighten your state, or ‘stress’ your body - both are hugely beneficial for you. The idea that stressing your body is good for you may seem surprising, but it works in a similar way that ‘stressing’ your body does during sea swimming or a cold shower (known as cold-water immersion). Positive stressors, or ‘eustress’, is actually good for your body. Eustress is a product of the nerves, and can emerge from experiencing exciting things, such as receiving a promotion at work, starting a new job, or taking a vacation. Eustress generates feelings of excitement, wellbeing, and satisfaction. Furthermore, when you challenge yourself, eustress makes you feel confident and motivated. For that matter, bringing about positive stress is one more reason to keep challenging yourself, which is also hugely important. Use it or lose it as the saying goes!
Breathing better helps with so many different ailments. It can help hugely with anxiety, depression, lowering blood pressure, boosting the autoimmune system, improving circulation. You name it, most types of Breathwork will help in a variety of positive ways.
The stress of modern life, with its busyness, negative media bombardment and always-on culture, overloads our systems to the point where most of us live with low (and often high) levels of anxiety as ‘normal’. Believing that how we breathe doesn’t matter to our wellbeing and to our lives is no longer something any of us can afford to do. How we breath affects every single system in the body, deeply on a cellular level. If you’re new to this phenomenon and not convinced by ancient wisdom, modern science is beginning to catch up and there’s now plenty of scientific data to support this.
Learning to breathe more effectively will positively affect your mind, your emotions, your thoughts, your physiology - even down to improving the density of your bones. It will increase your energy, your circulation, help you sleep better, help you feel calmer and reduce your anxiety. I know this because I’ve experienced it for myself. I know it because it’s improved my life in so many ways. I’ve also come to realise that breathing is an often-untapped potential that can transform every aspect of our lives. And when you feel better you live better. If you’re still skeptical try seeing the results ‘for real’. Try taking your blood pressure for a week and see how it changes, whilst you take up a breath practice. There are lots to try online you can try for free.
Each person walks their own path and must make choices that feel right for them. But if what you’ve read here today calls to you then why not give it a go, you’ve got nothing at all to lose. I’m also in my training phase and need 20 people to practice on! So, if you’re up for it, let me know and we can easily set up a free session online in these times of Covid.
My email is email@example.com