Steadily or haphazardly
Freely or constrained
Deeply or minimally
Fully or partially
Our breathing is a reliable indicator of how we are living, moment to moment; a gauge for ourselves – and a signal to others – of our current state of being.
From birth we oscillate between expansion – inhaling, opening, accepting, embracing, energising, absorbing, containing, incorporating, stimulating, inspiring, continuing… into contraction – exhaling, releasing, softening, quieting, soothing, letting go, surrendering…
The inward breath ever so slightly stimulates our nervous system, an aspect of life most obviously expressed as a gasp of excitement and delight; the outward breath calms us, most clearly expressed as a deep sigh of ease and satisfaction. This is why breathing rhythms and patterns are such a powerful and reliable part of our personal medicine cabinet – breath can energise, and it can soothe – simply by exhaling for longer than you inhale you can bring yourself into a more relaxed state; simply by breathing rhythmically and fully you can bring yourself into a more enlivened state.
This process continues its life-maintaining oscillation, without any need for our conscious interference, however – unusually and possibly uniquely – humans breath both unconsciously and consciously. When we are resting, relatively still, and/or mentally engaged, our breath is both minimal and automatic, a steady “tidal” rhythmic flowing in and out. When we increase our activity our breath responds by automatically increasing our capacity and thus our oxygen intake, although how freely it responds can depend on postural and behavioural factors. Crucially, we can decide we want to breathe in a particular manner, and practice a specific rhythm or pattern, with intention and focus; of course a core aspect of mindful meditation is attention to the breath, just as with Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement we maintain free and fluid breathing as a natural gauge of our ease of movement.
Our astonishing nervous system is constantly monitoring our wellbeing and bringing us back into a state of responsive equilibrium – at the end of the exhalation it detects our lowered oxygen levels and stimulates the diaphragm to contract, drawing the next breath in. If we extend an out-breath – whether unconsciously, by laughing or sobbing, or consciously, as when we sing or chant – we can generate a deep spontaneous inhalation usually referred to as “elastic recoil breath”. This process provides us with an effective and powerful technique for freeing the breath, in a way that is valuable not just for performance but is also very healing for those with respiratory health issues, and will be part of the HumanSong course coming up at the end of August.
The Skylight Centre
Highbury & Islington, N5
HumanSong–Spontaneous & Effortless Self-Expression From The Heart
A Feldenkrais Embodied Voice Workshop
August 28th – 31st (Tuesday – Friday)
11.30 am – 5.30 pm each day