Breathe Deeply

By Michelle Robin, D.C.
Breathe Deeply

Breath is looked upon as life, as spirit, throughout world cultures. Breath has both physiological and emotional connections. Breathing is both reactionary and proactive. Your breathing will respond to your physical or emotional circumstances; you can also control your breathing to affect your physical and emotional responses. Breath is energizing, cleansing, and restorative—physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. Before I discuss how interwoven breath is into the well-being of your mind-body-spirit, take a moment to assess your awareness of your own well-being and the quality of your breathing. …

The power of conscious breathing is inherent in the body's design. All you have to do is reawaken your dormant intelligence, your dormant understanding of conscious breathing, and through practice you can begin breathing at your own most efficient rate. It doesn't matter if you have breathed poorly for years. Once you start to breathe deeply and well, your entire system is reactivated according to original design and immediately begins to bring you benefits.

It's easy to see this process at work when you are under stress. The muscles of respiration tend to be the first to respond to negative emotions; there is always a response of tension that occurs at the edges of the range of motion. This means that when you are worried, anxious, angry, or afraid, you stop breathing fully in and out. You decrease your range of breathing motion; you lock down. As your system gets less oxygen, you are less able to sustain a state of well-being on all levels. …

Another phenomenal benefit of deep breathing is the processing of stuck emotions. For every emotion you don't fully express and feel, there are chemicals called neuropeptides that have bonded to receptor sites in the body. There they sit, waiting to fire as the emotion is processed and released. If they are not processed, layer upon layer can build up, stuck there for an indeterminate amount of time as stored emotional tension.

Stretching out the muscles of respiration leads to the release of that stored tension. It is not uncommon for this to happen during a massage as you allow yourself to breathe deeply and relax. You may find yourself crying or releasing emotions of which you were not aware. What is happening is that the neuropeptides are finally getting enough oxygen, enabling them to fire and thus be released and moved out of the body. As you breathe deeply, you become aware of the tension, and you can choose either to continue processing it or to stop breathing so deeply. But if you choose not to process your tension, you make it impossible for the body to enter a state of deep relaxation.

By consciously and regularly practicing breathing through all the ranges of motion of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, you will come into contact with any tension or pain you are manifesting physiologically that resulted from a negative emotional issue. This issue will always be related to a belief of some kind that you hold. Find the belief causing the pain, shift the belief causing the pain, and alleviate the pain. Thus, conscious use of breathing becomes a very useful tool for understanding yourself, unraveling the mystery of your own life, and contemplating, "Why don't I have more harmony, peace, and balance?" Your breathing can guide you to resolve and shift beliefs and behaviors that are not working in your life. It becomes a system of self-referential feedback in which you watch and learn about every aspect of yourself.

What I've been describing is an ancient teaching about the importance of breathing, and it leads us to consider the practice of meditation. Breathing is the first, most effective gateway to one's ability to meditate. The heart, which lies right above the diaphragm in your body, will adjust itself to the rate of your breathing. Thus, when you breathe deeply and slowly, the cardiovascular system slows down into greater relaxation. As you breathe consciously, you unravel stuck emotions. You breathe; they surface. You express them; they leave. As you develop your breathing more and more, your body learns to dwell in this relaxed state. …

Breathing deeply keeps you in this moment. Awareness of your breathing moves you deeper and deeper into dwelling in the present and thus allows you a richer experience and understanding of life. Even 10 minutes of breathing deeply and continuously (this means no pauses between breathing in and out) through the full range of motion of your muscles of respiration has a great impact on your physiology and emotional state. Breathing well predisposes you to radiant health!

Unity minister Patricia Bass shares her thoughts with us: "Spirit and breath are inextricably linked. The word spirit comes from a root that means 'breath': Buddhists have understood this for millennia. Their beautiful teachings on mindfulness always begin with the breath—breathing in, breathing out, silent inward chanting. This is the essential Buddhist prayer. It is so powerful because when you bring your attention to the breath, it brings you to the present moment. The present moment is your point of power. The present moment is also the only place you can touch the Divine in you. You can't experience God tomorrow or yesterday, only now." …

Remember that breathing is automatic. It is effortless, something you don't have to think about in order for it to be in you, filling you up, giving you life; it just is. God, or Spirit, is like that. Just like breath, God is always there, effortlessly filling up with life, giving you the mind-body-spirit resources you need for well-being.

Excerpted from Wellness on a Shoestring by Michelle Robin, D.C. Robin is the founder and Chief Wellness Officer (CWO) of Your Wellness Connection, one of the nation’s most successful healing centers focusing on integrative healing disciplines such as chiropractic, Chinese medicine, massage therapy, energy medicine, counseling, nutritional and wellness coaching, and movement arts.