Friday, November 28, 2014

The Benefits of Breathing. by Patricia Lynn Reilly

Imagine a woman who lives an embodied life.
A woman who has returned home to her breath.
Who breathes consciously in gratitude for life itself.
Imagine yourself as this woman.

In the very beginning of our lives, we breathed deeply into the belly. Our healthy breath
began in the abdomen, moved upward toward the chest, and was released downward toward the belly. Each time we were threatened, scrutinized, or judged in childhood, this deep belly breath was reversed and we developed the habit of shallow breathing into the upper chest while tightening our abdominal muscles.

We inherited this “fight or flight” survival breath from our earliest ancestors. Our socialization
sets us up either to “fight” against the natural self by banishing it to a subterranean basement of our being, holding it in and back lest an unscrutinized need, uncensored feeling, or spontaneous thought slip out—or to take “flight” from the natural self by participating in countless distractions. A shallow breath is evidence of our alienation from the deepest parts of ourselves.

Return home to your breath. Turn your attention inward by taking a few deep breaths.
Become conscious of the breath and its faithful rhythm, supporting you the length of your
days. Savor the breath of life as it flows in, through, and around you. On each inhalation,
gather yourself from the far reaches of your life. Bring your energy and attention “home.”
On each exhalation, release the accumulation of your day. Allow sighs, sounds, and yawns
to ride on the back of each exhalation to support you to settle into this moment. Breathing
in, gather. Breathing out, let go.

Your breath is an essential resource on the way home to yourself. As you enter into partnership with your breath, your original body centeredness is re-established. With each breath, you actively nourish the body, balance its systems, listen to the wisdom of its sensations, and participate fully in every body-centered activity. Consider the following benefits of deep breathing:

• Conscious breathing treats the body to a banquet feast of nourishment. A deep inhalation
nourishes a larger quantity of blood cells than a shallow breath. A full exhalation releases the accumulation of carbon monoxide. A shallow breath leaves residues of this waste product within our systems and supplies our bodies with only enough nourishment to function at a minimal level.

• Conscious breathing balances all of the systems of the body. It lowers the blood pressure,
massages the internal organs, supports the digestive processes, and aids in the body’s
eliminatory functions. A shallow breath is only capable of supporting the body’s processes
on a superficial level.

• Conscious breathing supports us to pause in the midst of our busy lives to pay attention to
our bodily sensations. They are the voice of our organic needs for food, rest, orgasm, exercise, elimination, and touch. With each deep breath, we become more skillful at discerning the intention and wisdom of each sensation. And as we step into self-responsibility, we meet the needs of our bodies with tenderness and grace.

• Conscious breathing is our opportunity to participate with the body. As we become
attuned to the flow of our breath, we develop our capacity to direct the breath into any part
of the body to enhance sexual sensations or to relieve painful ones. We learn to savor every
sensation as it rises, and then to let it go with as it passes. To breathe deeply is to participate fully in all aspects of our lives.

-Patricia Lynn Reilly,
Imagine a Woman International

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