Optimal breathing creates a whole orchestra of motion throughout the body.
This happens when our body is internally free to do so. We most likely breathed like this as babies, when we were less impacted by living life, especially life in the 21st Century.
To come back into whole body breathing, we need to do supportive practices (movement, awareness, and breathing), and be supported by body-centred practitioners to resolve the trauma held in our system.
BSCT and Stillness Touch are very powerful supports to resolve trauma in our system
As beautiful as lungs can be imagined, the actual felt experience of deep inner body breathing is so stunning as to be a sort of miracle. It isn’t what we think it will feel like, our whole body is involved.
Meet our Many Diaphragms
Our respiratory diaphragm is a muscular dome attached at the base of the rib cage. As we breath-in, the respiratory diaphragm moves downwards. The downward motion massages our internal organs. This important motion stimulates healthy movement in all our organs.
With our in-breath there is an expansion of our whole torso – for example, our pelvis and shoulders move in a coordinated way with the breath.
As we breathe outwards, the diaphragm moves upwards, and the body pulls inwards as the air is expelled from the lungs. It’s as if the body becomes taller and thinner.
In a body that is internally free, there is a lot of synchronised movement happening within the body as we breathe. This movement is occurring in relationship to a whole range of other diaphragms that include our:
- Crown (top of the head)
- Tentorium (a membrane holding the brain in place)
- Cranial base (bottom of the head)
- Pelvic Floor
- Soles of the feet.
When you have a refined sensitivity to your body, you can tune into these diaphragms and actually feel these movements happening. This can all be discovered through your own inner sensing.
To illustrate whole body breathing, it’s worth looking at a short animation by Jessica Wold showing some of the relationships involved in breathing. Note that, in this animation, the focus is on the torso. Imagine your knees, feet, cranial base and crown also moving as you breathe.
Impact of Trauma and Holding Patterns on Our Breath
Trauma really changes our relationship to breath. When we are frightened, we hold our breath.
For people who have experienced traumatic events or developmental trauma, a chronic holding pattern can develop in how we breathe. We literally hold ourselves still in our muscles, fascia, bones, and so on. This holding occurs when we have not processed and released trauma.
We are so used to our habitual holding patterns that we don’t know these are there.
Transforming our contractions requires gentle attuned support. BCST and Stillness Touch are a very direct way to do this.
We contract our body for a wide range of reasons. For example, as we grew up:
Maybe we did not want to take in any more of the smoke or toxic energy in our home environment, so we breathed ‘as if to keep the air out’.
Maybe we were so scared in the past that we froze, and the stiffness has never gone away.
Maybe we didn’t want to cry as children and so tightened up our diaphragm to stop this happening.
Whatever the reason, our body is restricted and therefore not expressing optimal health.
We can also learn to contract as adults. There are seemingly benign reasons for holding ourselves in. Dr Libby Weaver gives the example of wanting a flat belly, to look slim and attractive. Or perhaps we want to wear trousers or skirts that require us to squeeze ourselves in. So we pull in and stay pulled in – cutting our breath off from our whole body.
The impacts of contracting our breath are profound. Contracting can become a limiting patterning within our body that is locking in our health and potential.
We can know where we might be on the continuum of healthy breathing, by using our internal felt-sense.
When we have chronic holding, our felt-sense of breathing can actually disappear. We don’t feel we have a respiratory diaphragm, never mind any other diaphragms. There is no sensation. We may be confused about what happens to our diaphragm when we breath in (e.g. does it go up or down?) as we have no direct sense of this part of our body. We are oblivious to what is happening inside. This is a natural effect of trauma on our felt-sense.
As we tune in and explore our breath, we might notice that our body feels contracted and tight. As if our skin and muscles do not have room to move. We might also find that no amount of stretching will open this tightness up.
Maybe we have stubborn aches and pains that simply doesn’t go away. This is because the body needs to process the trauma that it is holding on to. This processing needs sensitive attunement and isn’t something that can be pushed or imposed. Our body has to open, much like a flower opens its petals.
We may believe that it is impossible to feel or change our contractions. In essence, we might give up on ourselves by dismissing the relevance of this patterning for our health. And yet we are always changing, and our bodies want to become free. So, the potential is always there for things to open up and become freer for us.
HOW IS YOUR BREATHING?
- Can you tune into the movement of your respiratory diaphragm? How does it move?
- Does your breath feel silky, smooth and even? Does it feel stuck somewhere? Is your breathing full and easy?
- If you tune into all your diaphragms, how do these move? Can you feel your pelvic floor ‘breathe’?
Coming Back to Optimal Health
Our bodies are remarkably adaptable. It is possible to come back into relationship with the experience of your breath. As you do, your breath changes. Your awareness of this impacts your physiology, and the impact is both relaxing and grounding.
To have that direct felt-sense and direct knowing of your own breath as a gentle rhythm (filling up and widening in your whole body, then pulling inwards and back out again) connects you to your health.
In time our breath can also synchronise with our energy field, and with the universal energy field. Then, it is as if we are being breathed. The experience is counter-intuitive because of all our conditioning about what we think breathing is. Our bodies feel deeply nourished when this happens. For me, I laugh at how marvellous it all is.
I didn’t know I could breathe like this, that there is more to open in to.