Reading today’s daily inspiration, I came across this: “But watching the winter water of a stream begin to flow and thaw, over and over, I finally saw that to make it through the pain, I had to be more like water and less like ice. For when trees fell into the ice, the river shattered. But when large limbs fell into the flowing water, the river embraced the weight and flowed around it.The trees and winter water were teaching me that the pain was more pointed and hurtful when I was tense and solid as ice. But when I could thaw the fear and tenseness I carried, the pain was more absorbed, and I could, like the thawing stream, move on – not pain-free, but no longer shattered.”
I had this same revelation years ago. I was dealing with severe cluster migraines, they literally take your breath away and you want to tear off half your head to get rid of the pain. I found that if I slowed down my breathing and tried to even out the flow, rather than take short, pain-filled breaths, I could bring more oxygen into my body and into the pain, and by bringing more oxygen into my body, the headache would feel less severe. I was flowing with the pain, rather than fighting the pain.
One of the healing elements for cluster headaches is oxygen. During my second round of treatment for them, I was carrying around an oxygen tank and I had a big tank next to my bed for when I was home and got a headache. By taking deep breaths of oxygen into my lungs, it would relieve the headache.
Oxygen helps anxiety and worrying. I used to be a big worrier. BIG. Now I rarely get worried. But if I do, I start breathing deeply. I take my breath from my belly to the tops of my lungs, which allows me to get the fullest breath I am capable of.
Oxygen is also healing for skin wounds. Watch a wound go from fiery red to a scab in a matter of days. The oxygen helps us to scab up the old wound while creating new skin underneath.
More recently, as I was healing ulcerative colitis, I made regular visits to my acupuncture therapist, Joyce. As she was preparing my body for needles and then the time to relax as the needles worked, she would remind me to breathe deeply. Even Chinese medicine recognizes the value of deep breathing on the body.
In our yoga practice, we spend some time in breathing. I am sure that the occasional yoga participant who is coming to class for stretching after an arduous workout probably gets frustrated with me for spending a full five minutes on our breathing before we start class and all the frequent reminders during class. To me, that is the most useful part of the yoga experience. In traditional yoga, the yogis would hold a pose and breathe and meditate in that same pose for long periods of time. They understood the purpose of breathing as a calming tool. They understood how yoga heals.
Like the water that flows, we must breathe through our difficult days. To breathe a shallow breath, we become like ice. Rigid. Tight, Uptight.
A couple years ago I created this video for practicing our breathing. It takes just ten minutes to learn the procedure. Enjoy!