HEALING: HOW HARNESSING YOUR BREATH CAN HELP YOU HEAL
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh
It’s a simple right? Just breathe. We don’t ever have to think about it, because our bodies make it happen subconsciously, but what about when we become conscious of our breath? How does this affect our health? And how can we use breath to heal?
Breathing is something that just happens, we don't think about it, and our beautiful body gives us life every single mili-second of every single day. It's pretty miraculous if you ask me, yet I think so many of us our holding our breath, breathing from a anxious state for a good eight hours everyday, and are really stressed out on a much deeper level than what we are even conscious about.
Before we dig into the mind / body let's dig into some foundational nervous system basics, so you can see where it's coming from as it relates to your primal human function.
To give you a quick snap shot of the nervous system so you see where and how this all fits in, the system has three main parts: the sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric nervous system, that each play their own role in the body.
The sympathetic nervous system is what kicks our bodies into flight or fight mode, aka running away from grave danger! It responds when we feel things like stress or danger for example and starts sending signals around the body to charge up adrenaline and our stress hormone, cortisol. Which is good in danger, but bad if you are sitting at a desk with those hormones rushing through your body. Cortisol is your fat storage hormone, it is the hormone that gets signalled when you're in "survival mode" which in todays world means a full inbox, drinking too much coffee, or simply not eating enough (Our body sees this as starvation, and will kick into survival mode, therefore producing cortisol). So even if you're eating avocado + broccoli your body will store it as fat.
On the other side of things...
The parasympathetic nervous system helps our body rest and digest; we like this nervous system very much and want to spend as much time with it as possible. This part of our nervous system calms us and helps us do things like absorb the energy and nutrition from our food and environment so we can thrive. The problem is our society now operates from the sympathetic nervous system almost every single day, and find it V hard to get back to parasympathetic operation. It's why meditation + self-care are no buzzy.
Digging even deeper...
The enteric ( Essentially your "Second Brain) is like a messenger system, it drives the communication between our brain and gut (more reasons to look after your digestive system. Which I truly believe to be the cornerstone of optimal healing on every single level.) which is why I take my clients gut health V seriously, and target it first above all else.
If we take a look at how our lives have evolved with expectations of work, commitments, the pace at which we move through our day, technology, dietary choices and other life stressors we have developed a pretty solid relationship with our sympathetic nervous systems. We’re charging flight or fight hard because it's become our new normal, it's how people just exist now a days without consciousness, but in my eyes + practice its anything but normal. I truly believe one can't heal in a sympathetic state, therefore we must work at developing a much stronger, and sustainable relationship with the PNS, our BFF. This is where all the nourishing, healing, cellular regeneration takes place, and it's my goal to get all my clients to this state, in a sustainable way. Not just in the short term. In today's world, it actually takes work to relax.
Back to breath.
Imagine yourself in a stressful situation.
Have a think about what happens to your heart rate, breathing, body, mind when there is stress.
The breath becomes shorter and quicker. We don’t fully expand our lungs and feel our breath right into the depths of our belly. When we have shallow breath we are saying to our body that we are in danger – that the forces of our sympathetic nervous system are ready for fight or flight instead of rest and digest. This happens just through breath alone, when means...
Breath is powerful...And should not be overlooked even in it's simplistic, yet life giving goodness.
When we stop to actually breathe , this sensation changes. Deep breathing calms things down, our bodies click out of sympathetic zone, there’s not that intense charge of adrenaline and we operate on a more grounding, moderate vibe level. Our body is safe, and we're able to deal with the task at hand.
When we breathe well and focus on incorporating deep breathing into life there are a plethora of benefits. We are oxygenating our brain so that we have clarity, our muscles perform well and move well through our day, our digestive system relaxes and is able to absorb nutrients to nourish our body. The simple process of deeply inhaling and exhaling reduces stress so our bodies aren’t exhausted and can truly function at their peak. This is why yoga, breathing exercises and meditation are so valuable in managing stress, healing the body, delving deep into the subconscious, and giving back to our body that's truly just trying to create the most beautiful home / environment for us to live in.
How can you start?
The way I like to hand this over is to encourage you to set an intention to breathe deeper, more soundly, and to bring awareness to your breath. What we don't know, we don't know.
This may sound ridiculous to be speaking about breathing, but you will be so surprised how bad our breathing really is on a day -to - day basis, and how this can really be affecting our health on so many levels. Especially when it comes to stress.
Old habits take time to break (months / years), and being conscious + mindful in how to best introduce new habits /practices is the best step forward until those new ways of being become engrained into your conscious + subconscious mind and body.
So when it comes to breathing become mindful of how you're breathing, especially in stressful + anxious states. Check in with yourself to check in at regular intervals throughout the day for some big deep breaths. This might be first thing upon rising just for a few minutes to start your day, as you boil the kettle for a cup of tea, when the 3pm slump hits and then before you go to bed. It’s honestly so simple, yet it's often the simplest of things that become the most engrained in our subconscious as loops of bad behaviour / practices / coping mechanisms, so it's so important to bring awareness to it.
Be conscious of the rise and fall of your belly, get out of your head, chest, upper cavities. Sink into the chair, ground, bed, surface that you're on, and begin to deepen your breath, giving rise to your belly, and knowing that as you do this, you're body + mind are thanking you.
IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO HEAL ON A DEEPER LEVEL. I WORK PRIVATELY 1-1 IN MY PRACTICE, VIA IN PERSON SESSIONS (TORONTO) + VIA SKYPE. LET'S CONNECT - I WOULD BE HONOURED TO WORK WITH YOU ON ANY LEVEL YOU SO DESIRE + RESONATE WITH.