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Have you taken a few deep breaths today?

Here’s your gentle reminder to do so. In this moment now, as you read these words breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. One slow inhale to the count of four. One slow exhale to the count of four.

Do a few of these. Breathe in two, three, four. Breath out, two, three, four.

What if we mixed it up? 

Let’s hold our breath at the top for a count of four. Retention breathing.

Breathe in, two, three, four. Hold, two, three, four. Breathe out, two, three, four. Continue for a few rounds. You can hold at the top. You can also hold at the bottom. You can hold both or just one. What feels good to you?

Keep breathing.

What comes up for you when you’re breathing? Do you feel the tension ease off your shoulders? Do you get a fuzzy feeling when you hold your breath? Where do you breathe in to? Your chest? Your belly? 

How often do you stop to take a conscious breath during your day? What if you could bring awareness to your breath in easy moments during your day? What if you could bring awareness to your breath in challenging moments? 

I find it so funny when patients grumble at my suggestion to practice deep breathing. I use it often as a tool for patients during difficult times. I get a lot of funny looks. And I think that if I didn’t start breathing with them they wouldn’t do it at all. 

I sense people think very little about the power of the breath. It won’t help them, they think. It’s too simple and paltry. How could a scrawny little thing like the breath ease pain and suffering? Dilaudid or Fentanyl are the only things to do the trick (i.e. completely take you out of your direct experience). 

Well, the breath is quite a potent ally. It’s one of your god-given tools. It’s the tool utilized by most eastern fighting masters (like Tai Kwan Do or Kung-Fu, etc.) to aid the training of the body and the mind. It’s like your whip. 

It guides, directs, and focuses your mind. It also allows ease into your body. And when you are able to focus the mind and direct ease into your body you release tension. Tension is what creates more pain than is necessary in a moment. 

In moments of anxiety or stress, we create more harm by clinging and restricting. It’s a natural protective mechanism. We think that if we tighten, hold, or restrict that we are creating a dense, tough protective armor. We think that somehow we are stopping the pain or hard feeling. What we’re actually doing is creating tension throughout our bodies while we simultaneously and unintentionally imprison our pain or difficult feelings. 

When we consciously breathe we allow oxygen and feelings to flow. We allow our minds to calm. What’s moving through is able to do just that – move through. The sooner it moves through the sooner it’s over. 

Think about when a woman has a baby. If she resisted the birth, clinching tight, then it would take a lot longer for the babe to be born. Which would then mean a lot more pain overall.

Breathing and allowing the body and mind to relax doesn’t mean that you get to avoid the pain. It means that you allow yourself to be in the best position for getting through it quickly with as much ease as possible.

The pain or difficult emotions may lessen in intensity, although it’s not always guaranteed. In fact, your feelings may get more intense as you trade time for intensity. But, ultimately, no matter how you choose to get through it, you’ll still need to get to the other side. 

You can either clinch, restrict, and hold your breath; creating more tension, pain, and restriction. Or, you can breathe and relax. The latter tends towards greater ease and a quicker arrival to the other side. Which do you choose?

Take one last breath before we go. Breath in, two, three, four. Breath out, two, three, four.

Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash