I’m going to challenge you to hold your breath for as long as you can.
C'mon humor me. Hold your breath for a moment.
A little longer.
And even more. Come on you can go further.
Just two more seconds. And two more….
Now let go.
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 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 twofold:
1. To remind yourself just how intricately your mental experience is linked to your body experience.
2.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.
Because when life pinches us, we naturally contract against it. Bracing for threat, we hold our breath in, and paradoxically we end up pinching ourselves more and more 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 in the busy sea to sky corridor.
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. However, as usual, the only way out is through.
Related to this topic, here’s a tool to help reset your default around holding your breath when dealing with stress/ uncomfortable emotions.
“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.