Breathing happens unconsciously, simply part of the tapestry that keeps us alive but unlike other autonomic processes we can override it and influence it’s depth and rhythm through practice and awareness.
I adore watching sleeping babies breathe. Uncluttered as yet, there is depth, slowness and pause to their breathing. A pause after they exhale that you can drop into as they hold a long moment of stillness.
My relationship with my breath begun as I began yoga practice, after travelling in Indian and Asia for a year I arrived in Australia, skinny, harbouring gut parasites and experiencing reverse culture shock. To clear my infestation high strength antibiotics caused vertigo and dizziness and I began to panic at the symptoms and my breathing became disturbed. I then began to panic at my panic breathing and my emotional health struggled to cope with the fear of being dissociated and out of step with a fundamental rhythm. So I begun to practice yoga and I became friends with my breath again. This relationship became a powerful tool through the next 25 years of my life. A journey to becoming more self-aware and authentic. Following the path that made me feel integrated and allowed me to use my gifts in differing ways, rather than following a path of should’s and could’s. I maintain a conversation with my breathing. It is my early warning system, my rock and my guide.
As a teacher I have become an explorer and a deep observer of the breath, I witness peoples lives in the way they breath, their energy and motivation, their humour steadiness and resistance.
Fundamentally our breathing dispels the illusion of separateness, from each other and from nature itself. It is our central ecological participation. We share the space, breathing it into and out of each other bodies; receiving and giving to the trees. Respiration and photosynthesis; trading molecules, receiving and absorbing what is expelled around us. We do not breath in a bubble and our very future depends upon us accepting and living the truth of this.
I consciously watch breathing. As social animals, unconsciously we are effected by the breathing around us. Like a yawn, spreading the flavour of how people breath near us; it affects us. We catch a sigh or pick up a rhythm of someone else’s breath though our own mirror neurones and without even meaning to begin to feel their experience in our own breath. Holding a birthing space has taught me the truth of this and how to breath steadiness into people.
How we feel feeds down into our breath, but illness can also change the breath effecting our emotions. Fluctuations are inevitable and what is exciting about yoga is we can notice and bring back into balance whatever has taken our breath away. Feeling and residing in the landscape of my body, as I mediate on my breath has created a dialogue with spirit, that as I become older makes much truth and sense to my understanding of my true nature. Sitting for Pranayama for me has never been easy but this, for me, is where the work is in my practice, as it’s depth develops.