Power of Breathing
Bret Lyon, PhD
The way you breathe is the way you live. Full, free breathing is the key
to enhancing physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Breathing fully and freely is our birthright. If you watch a baby breathe,
you will see a remarkable sight. With each inhale, the baby's belly fills
with air like a balloon, the pelvis rocks forward, the legs open. The
chest rises and then falls, like a raft on the ocean. This is natural,
oceanic "full-body breathing." It is the way we were meant to
Breathing effortlessly, a baby lives fully and freely in the "now,"
in the expansiveness of the moment. There is no past to remember, no future
to plan for or worry about. Each breath is a process of receiving from
the universe and giving back to it. With each inhale, she takes in. With
each exhale, she gives back. She is in touch with and part of the basic
rhythm of life.
The baby doesn't know this consciously, of course. But she experiences
a peace, joy and connectedness with all things.
As we grow older, unfortunately, we lose the freedom and expansiveness
that were ours at birth. We become afraid of disapproval, punishment or
abandonment. We experience unpleasant feelings that we don't know how
As a result, we begin to shut down. We learn to "control" ourselves,
to "be good." We sacrifice our desires for the approval of others.
To control ourselves in this way, we unconsciously tighten our muscles
and restrict our breathing. We discover that the less we breathe, the
less we feel and the easier it is to get along and "do the
As adults, we tend to breathe small and shallow, mostly in the chest,
with little visible movement. To make matters worse, most of us literally
stop breathing for short periods 50 to 100 times a day.
When we constrict or stop our breath, we lose touch with what is happening
in the present moment with how magical and wonderful it is just
to be alive. Instead, we focus on the past and the future. Our minds race
with thoughts worrying, figuring and planning. We lose the freedom,
joy and expansiveness that was ours at birth.
Miraculously, by directing your consciousness back to your breathing and
learning to work with it, you can regain what has been lost. You can learn
to let go of patterns of worry and tension which hold you back and return
to natural, oceanic, full-body breathing. Like a baby, you experience
the full feeling, possibility and connection of each moment.
As you become aware of your breath and work with it consciously, you make
a direct link into your autonomic nervous system, gaining access to a
part of yourself that usually functions outside of conscious awareness.
It is no accident that all meditation techniques in all religions are
based on breathing. (Chanting, of course, is breathing with sound.) As
our breathing gets fuller and deeper, we can feel ourselves softening,
opening, getting more spacious inside.
The breath takes us into our very core. It is no coincidence that in many
languages and many sacred texts, the word for breath also means soul or
spirit psyche in Greek, anima in Latin, Ruach in Hebrew.
As the breath goes in and out, we feel a connection between the inside
and the outside. Through breath, we are connected with all living beings.
When I first experienced full-body breathing myself, even my New York
cynicism couldn't withstand the amazing sensation of getting in touch
Breathing is restorative. It can cleanse us of toxins that have built
up in the body and the mind. It can help rid us of worries and tensions
and bring us back to our true nature and our true place in the timeless
universe. This most basic and essential of all our activities can also
be the most transformative.