„Breathe to your belly!“ – is not the solution for everything…
As I said before – I wanted to learn to do a headstand and I did. Now.
Another thing that I have been admiring in people is, when they write or talk about subjects that concern everybody’s lives and just present their own opinion or approach to this publicly. That is – not just in 1:1-conversations or in a group of people you can see and have at least the illusion of controlling how the subject will be received…
Being a fan of breathing, it is often one of the things I talk about with my clients. Also because with more and more people practicing yoga, meditation and other mindfulness techniques, there is a basic understanding that in order to be well, you might need to do something with your breathing. This I find a great development.
However – now we get to the point where writing about writing about my opinion makes my belly feel weird, my legs shake, and I’m getting excited.
Breathing through your nose into your belly doesn’t solve all problems!
I consider myself being quite confident, I do what I enjoy and I teach people how they can be more well in their lives. I teach them to feel their bodies, how they can notice and stop different patterns that are keeping them from achieving more of what they want. And how they can deal with the fear that comes when they go beyond what they’re used to, in a way that gives them more energy rather than holding them back. I’m teaching people to go beyond what is often called the comfort zone – doing something that is frightening and with unknown outcome, but with confidence and well being.
I’ve followed learning processes of people with different subjects and seen them use the tools they learned with me successfully, creating changes that they’re happy with. I’m learning to see and describe patterns more clearly and to show more precise where they’re holding effort in their body or which thinking pattern and conclusion might be part of holding them stuck.
I don’t know how many times I have heard something like „Yes, I know I’m not breathing to my belly well, I just use my chest“ or „I know, I should breathe more through my nose“ – when I ask the person in front of me, if they know anything about their breathing habits.
I don’t fully understand why I get so agitated, but there is a whole wave inside of me – and the more people I work with, the more it annoys me. Which is why I’m writing about it today, offering my view on the subject and clarifying some of the layers of annoying that I find in these sentences:
- The misleading implication that with the right breathing, everything will be solved (or at least much better)…
- The conclusion that breathing to the chest is shallow and to the belly it is deep
- The notion of there being a right way to breathe (through the nose and into the belly)
- The sensation of guilt that people show when they’re reporting to me (as if I’m some kind of „breathing authority“)
I think, when I was starting to learn about breathing and still a few years into being a breathing-fan, I too was promoting an image as if breathing can solve everything. Well, it can’t.
Or, following the thought on saying my opinion, just by breathing I will not write this article. I will also have to get myself together, use my determination and will and actually sit down and do it. I can use breathing to gain energy for doing this, I can use breathing in order to think more clearly and not get totally contracted from imagining how people might recieve this piece of writing and if they will react… But this article will not be written, if only I breathe.
I have never been a member of the belly-nose-breathing-team. Observing myself and other human beings (or any living creature for that matter), it makes sense to me that the largest variety possible in breathing would be beneficial. There are moments when you want to be fast and be dynamic. There are moments, where you want to sleep and rest. There is excitement and fear. There is being angry. Wanting to sing. Wanting to shout. Being quiet and intimate. Being exhausted from an intense experience. Being bored from the lack of such. Needing to get well, when being ill. Being attacked and defending yourself. Or having an orgasm and just experiencing pleasure…
All of these and many more experiences are part of living. In all of them we will need to breathe, and we’re equipped with this pretty amazing set of lungs, muscles and whatnot to do so in various ways. So, I do too like the option of breathing to my belly. And through my nose. And I’m sure there is a lot of evidence for the benefits of such breathing for all kinds of things.
But focussing on those is just not fitting for every moment and challenge I have in my life. From my own experience and observing my clients’ learning: I want to be able to use much more than that and really take advantage of breathing as a source of energy to the fullest. Just as you can breathe shallow, even though you focus on the belly: breathing fully can be done focussing on different areas of the body.
Which often seems to be surprising in the first sessions, when I train this with my clients. Train to really feel the little muscles between the ribs moving. To fill the whole chest, while relaxing the shoulders. To alternate between belly and chest. To use attention to the belly, chest and diaphragm and gain even more space… Or what I invent, on the spot with this particular person.
What I want to train is a flexible and variable muscle, I want it strong and smooth and able to adjust to the moment I’m in. Either unconsciously, because the body now has trained this ability. Or intentionally, because I want to focus on one way of being in a specific situation.
Now the last point diverts a little bit into a different direction and I might write more about it at another point. Today just this comment – It makes me angry, that we go around in the world feeling guilty for not being able to do something well, that we think we should do better. Who will benefit from us feeling guilty? No one. Who will get better at breathing by feeling guilty? No one. And will I punish my clients, if they tell me about not breathing? No, I won’t. So why do I ask? In order to be able to determine – where are they, what have they already played with and changed and what might be unknown territory. Together with them I want to find out, how they can gain more strength, more energy and overskud (I love this danish word – „surplus“ in English doesn’t quite cover it) to go through with their specific challenge.
Some people even have many different ways of breathing available, but only use them in one specific activity or don’t use them because it makes them feel more that they’re afraid or in pain. Also that I want to explore and then not make them feel bad for avoiding it. Instead I would like to learn with them, how they can deal with the fear or the pain without being terrified, rather using it in order to take care of what they need.
I think it is very limiting to think there is a right way of breathing. Because it suggests you have to aim for this one, right, way of doing something. And this category immediatly opens up for wrong breathing. Which offers feeling guilty, put down, incapable etc. What annoys me in this: suddenly breathing can become a reason to hold onto of low selfesteem, instead of a source of energy.
I am sure breathing is not the solution for everything. Everyone I’m missing will not come back, because I breathe. Everything that hurts will not stop hurting, when I breathe.
But my experience, my own and that of clients, shows me that if I can vary my breathing I’m able to adjust to the situation better. And to more and more different situations. I have energy for more things, be that emotions or chores to do or following dreams.
I might still not know, who will react in which way, when I write my opinion publicly… but I might do something I wanted to get done. With energy, confidence and curiosity.
Or I just added oxygen to my system, keeping me alive and well, while everything else is still going on.
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