When was the last time you focused on your breath? Truly, unabashedly reserved time to hone in on this natural process?
Notice your breath at this moment. Is it short and shallow? Or is it deep and prolonged? Do you breathe through your nose, or is your mouth constantly agape?
For a species that heavily relies on this essential act, it is a surprise just how little thought is given to the process. It is reported that the average human takes anywhere between 17 000 and 23 000 breaths a day, and unless afflicted by disease, it is rare that we consciously notice it.
Anecdotally, and of course cognitively, we are aware of breathing's essential service to our survival, but what more lies in the power of our respiratory system?
“Everything in our body is governed by the breath—our bones, blood, tissue, organs and believe it or not, even our cells have a rhythm in which they breathe and operate within us,” shares craniosacral therapist and yoga practitioner, Kathy Gabriel.
With an origin in traditional Chinese Medicine, breathwork relates to the active process of focusing on your breath to bypass the mind's often tumultuous grip on our reality. Often used in meditative and yoga practices, breathwork aims to bypass the mind's executive functions in giving it something to focus on i.e. the rhythmic waves of our breathing.
When our body is stressed, we find ourselves in a cycle of ‘fight or flight.’ Characterised by short and shallow breaths, our body begins to presume our secondary breathing muscles (such as in our neck and upper chest) as a viable substitute to our primary breathing muscles. Unsurprisingly though, with the year that was (global pandemic) and our gradual return to the workforce, it is clear that this kind of breathing has established itself as a common accomplice to the days of many.
“The quality of your breath has real physiological outcomes. Over time, this can affect our immune system, mental well-being and emotional resilience to take on whatever life throws at us,” says Gabriel.
Breathwork allows for a recalibration and catharsis of the body and mind. Through a centering of oneself, and a focus on this primary, native function, we can begin to realign our body’s with a state that is conducive for health and physical operation.
Remember: go in with love and understanding, and your body will do the rest.