Breath is the essence of life. While we can last for quite some time without food, and even water, we cannot survive more than minutes without breath. Any real or imagined threat to our breath, represents a threat to our very survival.
Perfect, natural breath is your birth-right. To see it in operation, just observe a sleeping infant. Without any guidance or instructions, it breathes naturally. It’s tummy domes and falls easily, as it is breathed by it’s own intelligence.
Learning to speak does not, in itself, place any great strain on breathing. Having to speak on demand, or having to recite or sing, on demand can.
Public speaking or singing, chest and other illness, injury to the thoracic area, anaesthetic under traumatic circumstances, loss or grief can all give rise to strong patterns of muscle tension and holding in the chest, back or stomach area. While originally intended to protect us, these holdings only serve to interfer with our natural breathing. We end up consciously pushing our breath in order to feel ok.
In the long term, these patterns can have a significant effect our breathing. We experience excessive tightness in our chest when breathing under pressure. Being told to take deep breaths is not the solution because of that very tension and because, in many cases, people already over-breathe. Learning to exhale is more effective, because it helps reduce the muscle tension. This way the natural breath has a better chance of kicking in.
If you are someone who experiences tightness or unpleasantness around breathing try this:-
Sit or liedown quietly in a space where you will not be disturbed.
Don’t try to do anything with your breath. Just commit to observe it, no matter how bad you think it is. Simply allow it to come in and to go out.
After allowing this for a few minutes, focus on the outbreath. Allow it to extend as far as it can go without forcing it.
To help, simply intone a gentle tone of your choice or make a whispered “Ahhhh” sound. The sound should be loud enough for someone in the room to hear it, but not so loud as to distract them.
Notice how your breathing, and mood, is changing.
Breath holding, and worse, shallow breathing that accompanies extensive muscle tension, has a detrimental effect on our sense of wellbeing. We feel fatigued from a lack of oxygen and our brains work at less than optimal.
High performance requires Natural Breathing.