How to breathe

Actually, it’s more accurate to say “how to be breathed.” Breathing is natural, organic, unavoidable. It’s not something you go out and do. You can’t go “get” breath somewhere. You receive it. You don’t breathe, you are breathed.

Why is this important—and what does it have to do with embodied eating?

Pretty much everything. Trauma, accidents, injuries, grief, even daily emotional stress cause the body to brace internally. That unconscious gripping or rigidity lies deep within the body—beyond the muscles, tissues and even the cellular levelat the energetic core. That internal bracing makes it difficult to fully surrender into an embodied state. Massage, yoga and stretching ease surface tension, but can’t unwind deep, underlying patterns of gripping and rigidity. What works: allowing your body to be breathed.

My training in Sivananda yoga and other traditional practices incorporated a rigorous study of pranayama, the art of noticing and skillfully guiding the breath. Controlled breathing techniques draw attention to the breath, watching where it catches or sticks, noticing how and where it develops, and delicately regulating its flow. After practicing controlled breathing, it’s useful to then surrender the breath, to allow it to glide into the body effortlessly, nourishing the tissues and cells, soothing the nervous system. We watch the body being breathed.

These simple but profound techniques calm the mind, release the muscles, balance the emotions and, over time, begin to unwind deep internal patterns of bracing and holding that keep you from being fully in your body. You can try an easy practice, called nadi shodhana—alternate nostril breathing—right now. Here’s how:

• Find a comfortable seat, with your back straight and chin level. Let your left hand rest softly in your lap.

• Using your right hand, lightly place your index and middle fingers between your eyebrows. Close your eyes; inhale and exhale deeply through your nose.

• Press your right thumb against your right nostril to close it, then inhale deeply and slowly through your left nostril to a count of seven. Close your left nostril with your ring finger, so both nostrils are closed, and retain the breath for a count of three.

• Release your thumb from your right nostril and exhale smoothly and completely through the right side for a count of seven. At the bottom of the exhale, close both nostrils and retain, with no breath.

• Release your thumb and inhale slowly through your right nostril for a count of seven, then close both nostrils and retain the breath for a count of three. Release your ring finger and exhale through your left nostril for a count of seven, then close both nostrils and retain the breath.

• This sequence represents one complete cycle. Repeat the sequence for five to ten cycles, and let your mind notice and follow your inhales and exhales.

When you retain the breath, try to do so without a sense of holding, grabbing or gripping the breath. Soften around the retained breath. The same goes when you retain with no breath. Just allow it to be there.

For more breathing practices and embodiment techniques, schedule a no-charge intro consultation, and try it for free. Meanwhile: breath, and be breathed.