How Breathing Can Heal Your Relationship With Your Body
Imagine a new “miracle” tool has been discovered that can take you from crawling-out-of-your-skin panic mode to hammock-on-the-beach peaceful mode, and it can achieve this result almost immediately.
- How quickly would you grab your keys and race to the store to purchase it?
- How much money would you throw down for such a device?
- Most importantly, how much better would you feel every single day with such peace and clarity?
It wouldn’t matter how far away the store is or how much money it would cost, would it? The serenity that such a tool provided would be worth any inconvenience and cost, a hundred times over.
Luckily for us, we already have this tool…and it’s completely free.
The Healing Power of the Breath
The simple act of taking air in and releasing air out from our bodies has an intense power. When we shift our breathing from the shallow, quick breaths that we unconsciously do every day to more deep, slow, even breaths, we alter the state of our bodies and our minds.
For centuries, yogis have been practicing this technique, called pranayama yoga, and experiencing the internal stillness and quiet that deep and measured breathing provides. This is nothing new to the world, though this may be the first time you are hearing about it.
It is essentially about mastering our life source.
We not only control the amount of oxygen that we take in, but also how deep into our bodies that oxygen goes. The quick breaths that we automatically take are shallow, with the air entering through the mouth and the nose, a quick trip to the lungs, and out again. Our torsos barely even move. They are enough to keep us alive, but not enough to allow us to really thrive. To experience that life-giving oxygen deep within us and allow the healing to happen throughout our bodies.
When we breathe deeply, the air goes in, sinking into our cores where physical or emotional tension resides within us. The parasympathetic nervous system begins to soothe and calm the body. Our minds begin to quiet, the endless chatter fading away, as we focus on the breath entering the body.
As we exhale, that tension leaves the body. The anxiety and stress that were hiding inside of us melts away, and we are left feeling strongly connected to our bodies and to our feelings.
Stopping Disordered Eating in Its Tracks
When someone with an eating disorder feels the urge to engage in their ritual behavior with food and their bodies (restriction, bingeing, and/or purging), it’s because they are feeling a strong level of emotion and tension inside their bodies, and they want to make it go away quickly. They use food, or the restriction of food, to achieve this. And it works, at least for a short time. Until the temporary high fades away and what’s left is shame piled on top of the emotions that are still inside of us.
It is impossible to engage in binge behavior if someone is fully aware and feeling into their bodies and their emotions. Instead of stuffing down their emotions with food, they breathe deeply and sink into their body, exploring what is causing the tension. They surrender to the feeling. With that breath and with that surrender, the tension dissipates, and they are able to transform into beings of pure lightness and ease.
How to Breathe for Transformation
There are many variations of this yogic breathing practice, but the most basic one can be done at any time and in any setting. It is important that we have the ability to practice deep, transformational breathing at any time in our days when we may be experiencing a rise in tension. This exercise needs to be done in the moment, not hours later when it is a “more convenient” time to feel.
The method below can be done whenever you feel the need: driving in your car, sitting at your desk, or walking down the street.
- Inhale deeply through the nose. Feel the air filling the lungs, opening the chest, and expanding the diaphragm.
- Exhale through the mouth. Let the breath go in an audible exhale. Feel the tension in the muscles relax and allow the mind to quiet.
- Continue this cycle for as long as it feels comfortable and for the inner stress and anxiety to melt away. Explore where in the body the tension resides and breathe deeply into those areas. Visualize the pockets of emotion being released and lightness and ease taking its place.
Our breath is a powerful and simple tool, and it’s sadly underused. This gentle practice can alter our physical and mental states at any moment, and ultimately help us to lead more fulfilling lives free of stress and tension.
How can we possibly ignore such an incredible gift?
Images Courtesy of iStock