Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
In my last piece, I mentioned the breath and how it tells us if we are indeed healing or are resisting change. Modern science has reduced our breath or "pran" to a count or number. The trouble is we notice no difference between art and a paint-by-numbers imitation of Van Gogh.
Our breath is a great instrument of diagnosis as well as healing. And it is more than that. Our breath is an instrument for self-awareness and realisation. Not to get too metaphysical so early in the day, let us take a test. When we are angry we hold our breath. Holding the breath creates increase in blood pressure. So, anger leads to high blood pressure (this is a known fact) because it makes us hold our breath (this is an ignored fact). The test is, the next time you are angry, release your breath. Yes, just focus on releasing all the muscles in your chest and face so you start breathing easy again.
Notice what it does to you. It may not be possible to get an immediate blood pressure reading, but you may be able to notice how different you feel, and conclude that it must be good for your blood pressure too.
During a therapy session with my clients, any time an insight pops up, my client will usually “clam up” and hold their breath. The appearance of the insight rocks the psychological boat, so to speak. At this time, I ask the clients to take slow and deliberate breaths while they process the insight. When the clients release their breath, and continue to breathe through the conversation, they are able to integrate this information. It then leads to new discoveries about themselves that help them overcome their problem. It really does feel like a lotus blossoming in time lapse.
So, I suggest that whenever you make a health plan, pay attention to your breathing. First, diagnose if you are plastering a change that feels alien to you. If so, you will be holding your breath as you make this health plan or goal. Such a plan is destined to fail. If you are holding your breath and blocking this plan or goal, go on an inner exploration to find out why you might be resisting. If it is about your self-image then refer to the aforementioned article. It can also be that you chose a plan that was like a fish trying to climb a tree. If so, release your held breath, take a few deep calming breaths and notice what other ideas for health come up. Chances are you will find a much better plan that fits you and will take you to your goal.
At other times, when in the comfort of solitude, put your phone or device away for a change, and let your attention flow with your breath. Go in with your inhale and come out with the exhale. Just follow your breath for some time every day. The reductionist model of everything will label this as “meditation” to “destress”. It is nothing of the sort. It is you, a conscious being who lives in this physical body, exploring the connection your consciousness has to the physical body. A joyful exploration, an adventure really.
As a parting suggestion, whenever you start to feel ugly by looking at a beauty magazine, or feel unfit or unattractive by browsing a fitness website, take a deep breath and release. Release the shame and the sense of "I’m not good enough". Silently, forgive the photoshop artists and magazine editors. They are just as vulnerable, fallible and mortal as the next person.
Turn the page, take a fresh breath and let the breath sweep through you. For, what could be more healthful than seeing your true nature.