Breathing and thinking are two sides of the same coin. This is essential to understand when you observe your breath in distress. Your thinking affects the breathing and vice versa. This intricate connection between body and mind is a direct opening that gives us the power to change both effectively, ambulance and ultimately evolve.
During anxiety or danger; the trigger is either an experience of panic/overwhelm or an anxious thought. The breath reacts automatically by becoming rapid, short and shallow. This short breath dominates the upper respiratory system, switching on the sympathetic nervous system, by tapping into the receptor sites at the top of the lungs. This is the body’s natural defense, flight/fight/freeze mechanism – supporting us to react quickly to danger.
The challenge in the West is that we have created lifestyles that generate a great deal of stress. Stress also flips on this natural defense mechanism. The body does not know the difference, and responds the same. When our stress becomes a chronic condition this leads to dis-ease and often burned-out adrenal glands.
We also carry the counterpart to the sympathetic in the parasympathetic nervous system. Its’ receptor sites reside at the base of the diaphragm. When we breathe deeply into the diaphragm, we flip the switch of the parasympathetic nervous system inducing a peaceful, calm state.
Breathing diaphragmatically supplies the entire body with necessary oxygen. Oxygen is the body’s primary fuel; every part of the body requires oxygen to function optimally. Every part of our body is sustained by the oxygen rich blood. The movement of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles are the bodies natural internal massage for the heart, lungs,the lower back, neck, shoulders, digestive track, and reproductive organs. Ultimately, oxygen is the vehicle for the life force. We thrive mentally, emotionally and spiritually when we breathe deeply and fully.
The key, is to consciously turn on the parasympathetic nervous system.
Before we can change a pattern we must become aware of it. Noticing your breath pattern is the first step. When you notice you are breathing short and shallow, put your hand on your lower abdomen (four fingers below your belly button) and begin to breathe there, feel your lower belly extend gentle. Breathe gently and allow your exhale to be like a silent sigh.
Initially, it can be challenging to work with your breath pattern, especially by yourself, because you are bumping up against locked-in emotions and traumas. By working with a diaphragmatic, connected breathwork system, you will address both the physical breath pattern as well as the habituated breath patterns from your subconscious. A series of three breath sessions begins to clear the habituated patterns from the body memory.
Because breathing and thinking are two sides of the same coin, as we work with one, the other is affected. The body has an easier time transforming the breath pattern while habituated thinking often takes more diligence to shift – neither can be ignored. Intensive breathwork clears the subconscious like taking the garbage out the back door. However, what do we keep letting in the front door, the conscious mind? What do we repeat to ourselves on a daily basis?
There are many practices for addressing our thinking: Byron Katie’s, The Work, helps to unwind habituated thoughts, by asking four simple questions; Tibetan Dzogchen Buddhism deeply addresses the Nature of Mind. Any thought we think more than once is a meditation, so what are we meditating upon? Is it a meditation that supports our happiness? Or suffering?
The good news is that when you clear from the subconscious, the feeling is one of jubilation; it is extraordinary to release the weight of past traumas. Most of us are surprised by the body’s ability to hold a memory that we have come to terms with. I believe these body memories are held as reminders to keep us safe. When we have learned and evolved beyond them, they simply hold us back from living our full potential. The breath locked them in, and so the breath unlocks them. As we do the internal Feng Shui and clear them, we are reinvigorated by the lightness of being.
Reside my friends in the present, free from believing habituated thoughts – the, ‘I am right!’ attitude – and, be free from the weight of past thinking. Enjoy each moment with a full, deep breath.