Breathing is the most basic, yet vital part of our human experience. While we could survive without food for about 3 weeks or water for 3 days, the average person cannot stop breathing for more than a minute or two. Whether running, sitting or sleeping, our breath goes on.
Breathing is simple. There are only 3 different possibilities, really: inhale, exhale and hold. The subtleties from what, where, how, how much and when, however, can modify your whole experience. Have you ever tried breathing at a high altitude? Or next to the sea? How about in a flower field? Notice a difference between the rhythm of the breath when running, working or sleeping? Or before a stressful presentation? If our mundane activities can have an impact on our breath, could it be that the reverse is also possible?
What if our breath could calm our minds? Activate our thoughts? Foster creativity or warm our bodies? What if breathing could influence how we live and how we feel?
The art of using and controlling the breath dates back millennia and has been studied by ancient civilizations. In yoga, Pranayama or the art of breathing is strongly associated with the concept of vital energy. Different breath patterns are used for their physiological benefits, such as cardiovascular health or lung capacities as well as mental effects, like nervous system activation or relaxation or clarity of the mind.
When exploring the breath, I apply the same concepts as in training any other muscles or starting a new discipline:
Start slowly and gradually. You didn’t start by running a marathon before you could do a 5km run. Don’t start by trying to hold your breath for 2 min before you can do 10 or 30 seconds comfortably.
About that…results won’t show overnight. Biceps don’t grow overnight. Neither does silence of the mind. Consistency is key. Bad days are to be expected, but that’s no reason to give up!
Ask for help! If you don’t know how to use a machine at the gym, someone can help you use the equipment properly to reduce the risk of injury. Same thing with the breath.
Be mindful of counter-indications. No heavy deadlifting for people with a hernia. And no long breath-hold for pregnant women, people with cardiovascular disease and more. Refer to no 3 and ask for help (you can also Google that one) if you’re not sure. Better safe than sorry!
The mindset is as important as physical actions and techniques. Games and matches have been lost before they even started, not due to the skills of the players, but because of their mindset. If you start defeated with a no-can-do attitude, how can you expect your body to catch up?
Finally, set an intention. If you want six-pack abs, you won’t focus on bicep curls. If you want to run a marathon, you’re unlikely to focus on squatting heavier. If your focus is on quieting the mind or coping with anxiety, don’t choose an activating breath that will get you all warmed up.
ReDefine will hold a workshop on December 4, 2022, as an initiation and exploration of breathwork. We have amazing teachers who can help you with direction, technique or routine. Quick questions can be answered before or after class, and we will be glad to do a private session if you’d want to explore more in detail and tailor a practice to your needs. Don’t be shy to bring a video you found online or an article if you’re not sure about the technique or credibility of the source!
Hereby honouring your body, mind and soul in all our humanity.