Since last week, I’ve been gulping in air from time to time: sucking in through the nose, puffing out through the mouth. During those deep-breath attempts, I sound as deliberate and noisy as a fireman breathing oxygen through his mask…or maybe a bit like Darth Vader.It’s not elegant, all this gulping and puffing, but I can’t seem to get enough oxygen after reading “Learning to Breathe.” Ellen explained:
The [pilates] instructor began by informing us that the first lesson we would learn would be that of proper breathing. She continued by sharing that some people have unusual reactions to breathing; they get emotional or have a physical response. However, once we learned to breathe, it could dramatically impact the way we lived.
If proper breathing causes emotional or physical reactions, I don’t know that I’ve ever truly breathed. While reading Ellen’s post, I became aware and self-conscious about each breath and began to wonder, How do you really breathe? Ellen explains:
We laid back on our mats and began to follow her instructions. Slowly, inhale through the nose, deep and low. Feel the air settle into your pelvis and expand your torso. Just as slowly, exhale through your mouth in a direct flow, strong and sure.It seemed simple enough, but apparently I just couldn’t get it. All afternoon, instructors stopped by trying to help me breathe. Try this. Do that. Push here. Inhale deeper. Feel it. Picture it. Breathe it.
As my husband drove us home from Florida, I sat in the passenger’s seat trying to take in the air slowly and deeply through the nose. Could I feel it settle into my pelvis? Was it expanding my torso?Like Ellen, I kept thinking it seemed simple enough, but apparently I just couldn’t get it. Like Ellen, I tried for hours on my own; in fact, I’ve tried for days…ever since I read her post, actually, I’ve been breathing, thinking, breathing, evaluating, breathing…with no apparent success beyond the basic inhalation necessary to sustain my respiratory system.Ellen, however, eventually breathed:
The air seemed to hit places in my lungs that had never been touched before; so deep and powerful that it completely threw me off guard. Salty water began pouring out of my eyes and my chest caught. I choked and coughed. Horrified, I jumped up and ran to the exit door. Out on the sidewalk, I bent over and tried to stop a tsunami of coughing. When the wave subsided, I stood there shocked.Quietly, I returned to the mat. Again, the coughing took over. Again, I found myself on the sidewalk outside trying to settle my pulse.The third time I returned, I inhaled deep and pure; this time the world stopped spinning and time stood still.Somewhere in the distance, I could hear the instructor calling out directions and the blurried women around me followed, going through their paces. My mind, heart, and soul were far away.I laid there in the fog, realizing that I had never fully breathed. Painfully self-reliant, I held everything up close and guarded: my dreams, challenges, relationships, children, ministry, and even my breath.As the air poured into my lungs, my shoulders collapsed, the tension in my life slipped away and well-designed wall of strength begin to crumble. I breathed it in, and let it go.
Whoa. That’s breathing. That’s deep and powerful.I yearn for that release.I long to breathe.But I’ve not done it. Not yet. As far as I can tell, I’m still gulping and puffing through my breaths, through my days, through my life.For someone who is in the midst of a “Slow-Down Fast,” learning to breathe seems essential. So I continue to draw in deeply through the nose—slow, deep and low—and then release through the mouth in a direct flow, strong and sure. And as I do, I wonder if I’ll ever find the rhythm or feel the release.I know that deep, true and lasting peace doesn’t come exclusively from proper breathing; I know I must be filled with more than oxygen.But I also know that proper breathing is healthy, so I keep practicing. And I’m patient. As long as my family doesn’t mind listening to my Darth Vader impersonation, I’ll continue to experiment.And I thank Ellen for her literal inspiration.This post is part of Charity’s THC community-building project, “There & Back Again.”
I went to TheHighCalling.org member blog Ellosy and read “Learning to Breathe,” which inspired me to write something of my own.Each Thursday, consider going “There and Back Again” yourself. It’s simple.Here are Charity’s steps: