When F. M. Alexander first began sharing his newfound discoveries about human psycho-physical functioning, he traveled around his native Australia and became known as "the Breathing Man." The core of his work was free and full breathing and its relation to overall wellness. Science is now catching up to what Alexander knew in the 1890s.
NPR recently did a helpful piece on the stress-relieving aspects of healthy breathing. Read and/or listen to it here.
The Alexander Technique remains one of the best ways to understand the anatomy and physiology of your own breathing system, and to begin to reverse some of the unconscious habits that develop in everyone over time, and which interfere with healthy breathing. Similarly, a Somatic Release session often restores full breathing function, as clients begin to let go of restrictive muscular tension in the thorax and throughout the body.
I recently had an SR session with someone recovering from a day-long outpatient surgery. He told me that one of his post-op instructions was to take a few deep breaths every hour or so for the first several hours once he got home. They explained that this would increase oxygen flow to his bloodstream and speed the healing of his surgical wound. It also must be enormously helpful after being intubated and receiving general anesthesia.
I was encouraged to hear this. Doesn't it seem like deep breathing would be one of the best (and least expensive) things hospitals and clinics could do to put patients at ease during procedures and post-op recoveries? Not to mention, knowing how to breathe deeply and mindfully might help the caregivers themselves. (uh-duh, kind of a no-brainer)
Yet most of us remain largely unaware of how we are breathing and what affects our respiration. Unless you are a full-time professional yogi or you have a disorder like asthma (which continues to proliferate, among children especially), you probably take your breathing for granted. After all, it is a reflexive action, something that happens automatically. We don't have to consciously choose to breath in and out all day long; thank goodness! We'd never accomplish anything.
The cool thing about the breath (one of them anyway) is that it is also a process that can be directed. You can choose to hold your breath until you're blue in the face if you want to (but you probably still won't get your way). You can coordinate your swimming with breathing in and out. You can sing. You can breathe your baby out in childbirth. You can slow your breathing down or speed it up. We do this, consciously and unconsciously, all the time. The more awareness of our breathing apparatus we have, the clearer and more powerful our breathing becomes.
First, you have to know your equipment. While a good anatomy book is a joy forever, the best way to learn is by direct experience. Cool Thing #2 about the breath is that it is always with us and so it can be experienced and experimented with at any time. Hey, how about now?
Come in for a "breathing tune-up" at Way Opens Center. Call me at 917-216-5850.