In this article, I want to explain what I have discovered in 25 years of working with the breath. We take our ability to breathe for granted because it remains in the unconscious mind. Most of us never truly experience what it is like to consciously experience the breath, feel the breath, and allow it to happen. We don’t recognize the relationship with our breath and the hidden obstacles that keep us from embodying a full breath and body connection. We are limited in our understanding of the body, and how to coordinate the breath with minimum effort and maximum efficiency. In order to find the ease we desire in our breathing and lives, we must bring the breath into a conscious state of awareness. It is through building a relationship with our breath that we then begin to feel safe, free ourselves in our lives, and unlock the breath.
Mistake #1: I need to be perfect.
When we spend all of our time trying to get everything right, we create tension that keeps us from feeling grounded and centered. I spent years beating myself up for not being perfect, while simultaneously trying to please all of my teachers and coaches; only to find out that the idea of perfection was keeping me in a cycle of tension and self-doubt. I found that by giving myself permission to make mistakes, I was able to release the majority of my tension. I began enjoying making mistakes because it was the doorway to growth, knowledge, and freedom.
Mistake #2: I need to make it happen.
When we try to make the air flow happen, we create tension and disrupt the nervous system. I remember the days when I felt like I had to force or push the air out; the only thing I achieved was frustration, tension, and anxiety. We must quiet our minds and listen to our body; the body will tell us what it needs. By allowing the breath, we discover a breath that flows with minimum effort and maximum efficiency.
Mistake #3: My focus should be on the inhale.
When we focus on the inhale, we overbreathe because we shorten the exhale and don’t release the old air. Overbreathing is one of the most dangerous behaviors because it affects our ability to respond to the emotional, cognitive, and relationship challenges in our daily life. If we don’t release the old air, we cannot create space for the new air to come into the lungs. The body will always remember to take a breath. You don’t have to worry about getting the air in, it’s about getting the air out. When we bring our attention to the out breath, we automatically lengthen the exhale while reducing unnecessary tension and carbon dioxide buildup. Whether it is work, relationships, performance anxiety or life, the exhale is the gateway to releasing muscle and breathing patterns that do not support us.
Mistake #4: I need to relax, I’m too tense.
When we tell ourselves to relax, we often create more tension. When we become too relaxed, we under-engage our support and lose energy that is needed to build performance endurance. Breathing is about finding the balance point between tension and release, it’s about knowing which muscles to release and which ones to engage for core support. Balance is how we restore the function and structure of the body and breath.
Mistake #5: I need to stand up straight.
Your spine is curved, not straight. The four curves of your spine – sacral, lumbar, thoracic, and cervical – make the spine strong and support your weight in an upright position. Create a relationship with the curves of your spine rather than trying to maintain straight posture. By using the word “straight” as a postural image, we tense most of the breathing muscles and lock the breath. And in doing so, we reduce our vocal and energetic resonance. When we allow the spine to move with freedom, we give ourselves a chance to experience movement without pain and fear, and the breath has a chance to be free.
In UYB’s next article, I’ll share my own process of exploring and learning about the breath, as well as exercises to help strengthen your daily breathing practice. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but those mistakes led me to discover which approaches are the most successful. Without mistakes, we remain stuck in our ideas of perfection. The goal is balance; balance in our lives, balance in our mind, body and spirit, and balance in our voice and breath.
Copyright © 2015 by Bradley Williard. All rights reserved.