A body needs a high level of energy to be fully alive and fulfill its potential and this energy comes primarily through effective breathing
- Breathing is one of the most important functions of the body yet it is an activity that most people do ineffectively and this contributes to their lack of well-being
- Reduced breathing patterns are learnt through our early experiences, when we contract and freeze in the face of overwhelming situations; we freeze our muscles, including those for our breathing and inhale to the upper chest only, just enough to keep us going
- Reduced breathing patterns make us fall asleep and live through routines: fulfilling our potential requires us to learn to breathe fully again, to expand our lungs up, down, front, back and to the sides
- Bodies learn to breathe from other fully breathing bodies
Breathing is one of the most important functions of the body yet it is an activity that most people do ineffectively and it contributes to their lack of well-being
Without oxygen, our body will die in four minutes. It is the most crucial element that the body needs, and yet most of us breathe in very limited ways. What little oxygen enters our body is directed immediately to the brain, and the remainder of our body survives on what remains, with the cells in a numbed state as a result of the lack of oxygen, and along with it, circulation of blood and nutrients that they receive. Cells in this state lack energy and vitality, and the nervous and immune systems reduce their functionality. We feel weak as a result, as though half asleep, disconnected from ourselves and the world around us.
In addition, when we breathe fully, we create movement in the diaphragm that massages the belly and the organs that lie beneath it, the liver, stomach and spleen, and in doing so support the digestion and immune systems. Breathing fully also creates a wave-like movement in the spine that massages the vertebrae and the connecting discs and maintains suppleness, as well as the flow of oxygen, blood and nutrients throughout the body. Breathing fully brings more energy.
These reduced breathing patterns are learnt through our early experiences
Breathing gives us energy, yet we have learnt, as infants, children, teenagers, to act in ways that limit our energy: we are told to be quiet, still and good, not to move or make a noise, not to be distracting. And beyond these ways in which we hold ourselves to make ourselves acceptable to others, we also develop breathing patterns to avoid feeling pain, or feeling fear. Fear and pain contract the body, and to avoid sensing what are to children overwhelming experiences, we learn contract further, pulling in our diaphragm and all the muscles around the rib cage and in our shoulders. We make ourselves small, and try to avoid the intensity of these experiences, so that they will go away. By the time we are adults, we are no longer aware that we are even doing this – it has become normal to live in this constricted way. We no longer feel the intensity of fear and pain, and we also lose the intensity of joy and vitality as well. These breathing patterns developed to avoid fear and pain are the key reason why we do not breathe fully, and so do not breathe in enough oxygen to maintain vitality in all our cells.
Reduced breathing patterns make us fall asleep and live through routines, and so fulfilling our potential requires us to learn to breathe fully again
When we don’t breathe sufficiently, we start to fall asleep, and our minds become dull. Our ability to be creative, to find new solutions disappears and instead, we rely on routines to live. Our brain is happy with routines, because they use up less energy and less oxygen: it actively encourages us to avoid doing new things, by creating anxiety, in order to consume less energy. But doing new things is what stimulates us, brings new energy, and once we have done one new thing, it is easier to do another, and another. And in this way, we fulfil our potential and become more of who we are. So fulfilling out potential starts with learning how to breathe fully, learning where and how we block our breathing and learning to stop it, and along the way, learning to relax into pain, and to allow fear to flow.
Bodies learn to breathe from other fully breathing bodies
Human beings are learning creatures, and our learning takes place at the level of all of the body, not only cognitively. So for a client to learn to breathe fully, the practitioner needs to be breathing fully, and bringing this to the client’s body. Bodies are intelligent and learn from touch and presence. Bodies need intense experiences to wake up from their routines, and this calls for a practitioner to be breathing fully, to be full of energy and to be highly attentive to their own and the client’s body and to stimulate the client’s body at this energetic level. These are the conditions that are needed to learn through the body.