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The Power of the breath

This is the year that I am quietly celebrating/acknowledging 20 years as a holistic practitioner and over 15 years teaching! I have just put together some writing about the subject of next month's Meditation & Yoga Nidra workshop, which is all about breathing and the power of the breath.

My mind can't help rewinding back to times when the breath has played a prominent role in my life. As a little girl I loved swimming and joined the Dolphins club where between the ages of 10-15, I trained and got into competitive swimming. The breath made all the difference to the amount of stamina and speed I could access. A flowing, deep and slow pace of breath meant I was able to swim 60 lengths with ease and minimal effort. There were occasions when I’d lose the rhythm of the breath, and each stroke would become more of a struggle and more tiring! Those hours spent ploughing up and down the pool with the focus on the synchronicity of breath and motion, often felt like a meditation (not unlike a yoga practice)!

I remember my first yoga class as a teenager and the natural affinity with the breath. I may not have known how to perform the postures back then, but I vividly remember going to another place as we were guided by the breath, so much so that at the end of the practice during savasana I had an out of body experience! At first the floaty feeling was enjoyable and then it was strange to realise I was drifting around the ceiling looking down at my body lying on the ground along with everyone else. Then fear set in, as I realised what was happening and came back down to earth with a bump!

I am thankful for the amazing experience I had in a course of Rebirthing Breathwork with a friend who was training as a Rebirther in the same year (1996) as I was starting out as an Aromatherapist. We decided to be case studies for one another. The rebirthing involved lying down comfortably, wrapped in a duvet and being guided through any issues that cropped up during the 10 weekly sessions. It involved a continuous panting-type breathing that I was to gradually build up and sustain for a whole hour as the weeks went by.

It was really hard! There were times I would yawn continuously and nod off here and there only to be brought back to the task at hand! I was told I was resisting - and kept being verbally prodded to stay awake!

It was hard work but the rewards were huge as the breathing uncovered unknown and unconsciously held beliefs. There was emotional baggage I was carrying around that was actually blocking my ability to be completely happy, and to feel at ease with myself, and the world around me. Bringing these hidden emotional patterns to the surface brought a new awareness that enabled me to work with them. I was given the affirmation, "It is safe to breathe and feel my emotions”, to use three times a day for two weeks which involved writing down and saying the affirmation out loud to myself in the mirror. The Rebirthing sessions and the use of positive affirmations helped me transform these beliefs and heal some of the themes holding me back. I am truly grateful to the power of the breath for revealing the shadows and bringing them into the light of awareness.

A year after training as an Aromatherapist I was pregnant with my first son, during this time I fully immersed myself into yoga. I felt like Mother Earth herself as I practised pregnancy yoga and meditation and the breathing techniques for birth preparation. It was the deep, slow, focused breathing that enabled me to have a "painless" home birth. After Kristian was born I learned to teach Baby Massage, which was such a joy. It was amazing to be able to take baby to work with me!

As I developed my massage practice I kept up with yoga & meditation regularly. It was a way to sustain me, what with all the physical work that comes with giving massages and nourishing others. As time has gone by these practices have developed into a daily ritual.

In bodywork, I encourage a connection to the breath that is as an important aspect that creates a “communicating” bridge between myself and the person I am working with, as well as to themselves. The conscious engagement and direction of the breath allows body, mind, emotions and spirit to integrate and to become more responsive, which encourages the release of more tension. Quietly engaging in Uijay pranayama breathing as I work, helps me stay focused and to conserve my energy.

The conscious flow of the breath is a thread that conveys vitality and plays a key role in bodywork, yoga, healing and meditation. In the teaching of yoga, the practice is breath-lead in that movement is synchronized with the flow of breathing. In meditation, awareness of breathing allows us to be fully present. It is a way to connect to ourselves, to come back "home" when we fragment and split ourselves into too many parts.

Just as the breath automatically expresses all our emotions, our anxiety, sadness, excitement and joy, a conscious slow deep breath, allows us to be in the moment, where we feel relaxed and reassured that everything is alright!

I am loving the richness of learning and diversity that the practices of bodywork and teaching bring and I feel blessed to be able to stay connected and not very far from the vitality of the breath of life!

First posted on 21 April 2016

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