Imagine this — Life as one immense breath from your first inhalation at birth to your last exhalation at death.
When I read the quote below, my relationship with breathing took on an entirely different meaning.
“Breath is a connecting force. It creates bodily equilibrium and balance and helps us to make inner and outer impressions interchangeable. It connects the human being with the outside world and the outside world with his inner world. Breathing is an original unceasing movement and therefore actual life. Experiencing the breath means starting to live in a new way. Breathing became my ‘guide rope’ that enables me to lead the body and with it the spiritual and mental into a new ‘opening’ to life where meaning is to achieve a wider consciousness and greater expansion in the inner and outer spaces.” (Ilse Middendorf, Preface to The Perceptible Breath: A Breathing Science, p. 77 in Bone, Breath, & Gesture. Practices of Embodiment, Don Hanlon Johnson, Ed., 1995)
Breathing happens automatically; we take it for granted, until we can’t take air in. I still remember my first encounter with the inability to take air in. As a young child, I was trapped underwater by wave action. Eventually pushing through the sea’s surface, I sputtered out water.
Perhaps you have had an experience where your natural ability to breathe spontaneous and rhythmically was interrupted. It probably happens more often than you are aware of. The next time you lift an object, exercise or engage in your fitness regime, or concentrate with intensity, observe your breathing. Is the action you are performing affecting your breathing, your breathing affecting the action?
The quality of your breathing affects your life. Freedom in breath is a measure of well-being. Noticing and paying attention to your breath leads to the possibility of breathing as productively as possible at this moment in your life, quieting your mind, reducing tension, decreasing the release of stress hormones, better oxygenating and cleansing your body’s cells, and slowing down heart rate.
Tension interferes with intended action or rest, thinking, feeling emotion, interacting socially or enjoying solitude. Unknowingly, many people constrain their breathing by interrupting or holding their breath, or breathing at lower capacity than is possible.
When breathing is free, you have more freedom of movement in living. Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais was not interested in teaching a “right way to breathe.” He was interested in having easy breath during whatever one might be doing. When breath can be free, a person moves and does what they do with more ease and less effort.