I challenge you to hold your breath for as long as you can.
Still going? A little longer.
And even more.
Come on you can go further.
Just two more seconds.
And two more….
Now let go.
What just happened as you held your breath?
You probably noticed a pressure in your body, head and chest.
Perhaps there was a slight headache forming and a feeling of panic rising.
A pounding heart. Narrowed vision.
These are very akin to some of the familiar symptoms of stress you may have noticed at one time or other.
The point of doing that little exercise was
- To remind yourself just how intricately your mental experience is linked to your body experience.
- To remind you about the simple importance of breathing, something we do so automatically that we start to take it for granted.
And then we don’t notice when we are leaning on the override switch to this precious involuntary process way too often.
Why do we get in the habit of holding in breath?
Well, a common reason is because when life pinches us, as in stressful moments, we naturally contract against that pinch. Bracing for threat, we hold our breath in, and paradoxically we end up pinching ourselves, holding in more and more, and as a result, breathing less when we could actually use a bit more oxygen to help us with the problems we are facing.
Oxygen is food for the brain. However we are often working with much less than we need to manage the kinds of complicated scenarios life throws at us when we are pushing ourselves to the limit, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, here on the busy West Coast.
Breathing is an involuntary process, yet we can override the program- cutting our breaths short, holding in to brace ourselves.
Also, when we are resisting breathing, we are unconsciously resisting living, as though this will help us to ward off life’s mounting challenges.
And as usual, the only way out is through.
Here’s a tool that can help you shift that pattern, and use your breath to help you get through the tough spots in your day. While meeting your life with awareness in the moment, you can effectively dissolve the stress you are facing, one piece at a time.
Stress release tool: “Let go” breath
- On your inhale, allow your experience to exist. Open your awareness to register what is happening in your experience in that moment. To support non-judgmental compassion that allows you to actually make real contact with your experience, say or think the word “Let”.
- On your exhale, very slowly allow the breath to squeeze from your lungs with mindful contact, and release whatever information of your experience that you have gathered on the inhale. Say to yourself “Go” as you allow it to pass through you.
- And repeat- Inhale:“Let”, Exhale: “Go”
Repeat as many times as needed to calm your nervous system and make contact with your present moment experience.
Use this tool whenever you notice yourself contracting against the stress and pain of life, and it will assist you to break your problems into smaller, more manageable pieces.