The Breath of Life

The importance of breath can not be overlooked in the role of health. Most people have observed that when we are stressed or trying to focus on something, our breath can become shallow, and even restricted by muscular issues. One approach is to try to control our respiration through breathing exercises or taking deep breaths when ever we notice that we are not breathing deeply. This has observable benefits, often immediately. One thing that we may overlook is the search for why we breath in a less than optimal maner. What are the factors that are involved in breathing shallow and holding our breath?

If we observe ourselves, in real time, we may notice that tensing up and holding patterns go much farther than just breath. We develop habits that constrict us, muscles, joints and likewise breath. We can control our breath for a while if we want to, we can even change our breathing habits overtime, but is this the best way to approach such things? Natural biological functions can be interfered with and even controlled, to some extent, but do we really have the subtly of mind and understanding of our functions to do so well, without causing other imbalances? Our digestion, our circulation, our heartbeat can all be influenced by activities and exercises, but in these cases, I think we can all agree that the body’s system knows best. Imagine how many people would die if they were able to control their heartbeats from moment to moment?

Anyone who has experienced a traditional Rolfing session one has experienced the Rolfer trying to address muscle and fascial restriction in order to allow the breath to be more free. It is so important that it is usually the first thing we focus on. There is something mysterious about respiration and circulation in general. Scientist have been trying to find out the mechanism that drives the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid for some time without success. American osteopath William Sutherland explored this for quite some time. Toward the end of his life he came to the conclusion that it was actually driven by external forces. This like much of osteopathy borders on the esoteric, and points out that osteopathy is based on physics and physical forces, as is embryology. Not to go to far into the mystical realms though, I believe anyone can work with the idea that breath has its own natural current, and we can participate in that current consciously without interfering with it directly. Simply the act of observing will produce change, and these changes will be more natural than breathing exercises. There is a paraphrase from the Bhagvad Gita that comes to mind, “men are foolish to think it is they who breath”.

John WilsonComment