Somatic freedom: Breath awareness

Breathing exercises as the bridge to the somatic.

Breath awareness is a form of somatic awareness. Breath occurs in the body, and knowing how you are breathing, including the depth of your breath and the subtle energetic sensations around your breathing requires an awareness of body sensations in your face, throat, sternum, back, rib cage, diaphragm, and lungs. Emotional qualities are also present in the felt sense of breath. Breathing with intention creates shifts in sensation within our body that we most want to be aware of. It is the awareness of these shifting sensations as we breathe which is the most healing.

Breathing is often synonymous with relaxing, and we experience this relaxation in the body as well. It is difficult to relax around a sensation if we lack awareness of the tension we hold or can’t breathe with it. Breathing intentionally is the mechanism that relaxes these tensions. Because our breath is in our bodies, somatic awareness breathe are intimately interrelated.

Breath is our greatest ally; it’s always with us. Breathing equals acceptance and naturally relaxes the body. It is the engine of transformation. YOu may forget to breathe at times, and that’s ok. Just go back to the deepest breathing when you can. This breath is intentional but not forced. Find the edge of comfort and don’t go pat it. Breath can also be used to titrate, or slow down, the inner experience (it can also speed it up). If you are in an uncomfortable area, you can slow down the breath to reduce its intensity or deepen the breath to move through it more quickly. A common practice is to imagine breathing into a part of the body as you bring awareness to it. That means imagining the energy from the breath travelling not only to the lungs but through them and filling the area of the body you are focusing on.

Most humans breathe shallowly into the chest, even sometimes not only the upper chest, then hold their breath or stop breathing altogether when they are stressed or afraid. Instead of stopping to breathe, learn to breathe more deeply and intentionally in the belly when you are in these situations. Belly breathing is one of the most important aspects of these practices and cannot be overemphasized. Breathing into the belly is a transformational breath that moves an experience forward. Practising this makes it an automatic response.

Breath exercise: The belly breath

Lie flat on your back with one hand resting on your belly and the other on your chest. A deep belly breath will raise the belly hand first, then move the hand on the chest. A relaxed belly breath may only raise the hand on the belly. If you are moving the hand on your chest first, or only the chest, it isn’t the breath used in these practices. Try different rates of breathing and witness the differences in your body experience.

Breathe deep in your belly for as long as you need, bringing curiosity and non-judgement to the experience. Notice the changes in your felt sensations. Practice belly breathing many times during the day to encourage this new breathing pattern. Your nervous system will thank you for it!

Happy breathing!

Estelle

Belly breathing exercise - Ridcage in bloom
Belly breathing exercise

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