We breathe approximately 18 times per minute, 1,080 times an hour and 25,920 times a day. Breath is fundamental to being alive and yet, often unknowingly, on average, we use [just] “30 per cent of our respiratory system, sometimes even less”.
Many of us suffer from shallow breathing, which is the “drawing of minimal breath into the lungs, usually by drawing air into the chest area using the intercostal muscles rather than throughout the lungs via the diaphragm“.
Shallow breathing or “under-breathing” is a symptom of anxiety. When our fight or flight system activates, many of us have developed a habit of not breathing deeply enough, and unknowingly we hold our breath for short periods when under stress. According to Dr. Margaret Chesney, a breathing researcher at UC San Francisco, both of these unconscious practices can raise carbon dioxide levels in our blood, which can be harmful over the long term.
Another way of looking at this, is that the way we breathe reflects our body’s memories of all of our previous stressful experiences. If, for some reason, we haven’t fully processed or released some of these emotions and traumas, they remain stored within our bodies. By restricting our breath, not only are we holding onto these suppressed patterns, but we’re also restricting a significant part of our vitality, the flow of positive energies and our subtle power.
I’ve been aware of this broad concept for a while and have been practising various forms of yoga pranayama for many years, but still felt as though I could work with my breath at a deeper level. I stumbled across Transformational Breath ® in a newspaper article about the benefits of the technique and was inspired to attend an introductory workshop. I was genuinely surprised and amazed by the profound impact of actually experiencing the practice.
This YouTube clip offers an illustration of how the session works.
In essence, Transformational Breath® is a conscious diaphragmatic breathing technique, combining acupressure and affirmation with healing sound and movement. Unlike other techniques such as integrative breathwork or yoga pranayama, Transformational Breath® demands no pause between the inhale and exhale. A rough time ratio for the inhale:exhale should be 3:1.
The emotional effect of this breathing pattern seems to be to allow us to access and clear emotions or behavioural patterns that have been suppressed or repressed, within a gentle and safe environment. The session is profoundly healing and offers the opportunity to return our body to its natural state of breathing freely and deeply without restrictions. At the end of a session there is time for relaxation and reflection, similar to a meditation session.
The good thing about this technique is that you can practice it yourself anytime, anywhere after only a couple of sessions, so it’s definitely something that I’m going pursue further.
Breathing properly has a host of health benefits including: reducing stress and anxiety, improving mental focus and athletic performance, helping control high blood pressure and mending other health problems.
However, beyond the physical benefits, I was struck by the connection between the breath and the essence of who we are. Apparently everyone has a unique breath signature, which reveals a lot about their personality and spirit. This is touched on in the YouTube clip mentioned above. The greater the connection that we have with ourselves, the more we learn to trust and feel safe to express who we truly are.
It’s deeply empowering to become aware of such a simple foundational tool – breathing – that can be used for: self-healing; a more profound body-mind-spirit connection; and to move forward in life with greater awareness and ease.
Featured image “Breathing Fire” by Jeremy Brooks via Flickr, used under Creative Commons License.
[Note: This is a personal reflection on my experience of a Transformational Breath® session and is not a sponsored post.]