Don’t Hold Your Breath

You don’t have to do yoga to know that you should not “hold your breath”. Yet in order to make it through a topsy turvy time it is common for people to do just this. When we say “holding your breath” we do not simply mean not inhaling. Of course, people rarely “hold their breath” for without breath there is no life and by way of a long held breath, you might end up passed out on the carpet! It is more common for people to constrict their blood vessels, clench their nerves or tighten their sphincters in order to get by. This often occurs in the chakras, the soft tissues along the front of the spine. While the chakras are designed to bloom like flowers, they may also be held tight like buds. Each of us has hidden, secret spots inside where we habitually hold tension. When under pressure, you might purse the nerves in your gut, freeze around your shoulders, clench your jaw, or tighten your tongue. This gripping is like holding your breath. These mini constrictions add up: they stunt the flow of blood, block the free flow of chemical messengers and accelerate the release of stress hormones. These constrictions generally go undetected. In the midst of your daily round, where do you default to holding strain? Where are the buried places in your body where you “hold your breath”? Insight meditation (vipassana) requires that you be like a detective, equipped with magnifying glass and wire taps to uncover the shut-down zones inside. This is a difficult thing to do, for these patches of constriction are disassociated, cut off from the prana supply line. By bringing awareness to your own disguised tension, you begin the process of re-association. So the next time you hear a teacher, a parent or a coach say “Breathe!” remember, this does not only mean breathe in and out of your lungs. When you breathe, you must open the valves in your bloodstream, release your nerve endings and relax the clench in your solar plexus. In this way you can avoid the trap of “holding your breath”.

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