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Using Breath to Cope with Change

Posted by on Mar 22, 2017

As we approach the equinox and move into spring, often changes in our life mimic what we are seeing in the outside world- the amount of daylight swiftly increases, a frozen river begins to rush, our driveway shifts from frozen to mud pit in a matter of hours. Changes which are perceived as both positive and negative can be stressful. The breath can be an anchor which supports us and helps guide us through times of intense change.

At first glance, the breath can teach us that ebb and flow is natural. In every minute of every day, we are either inhaling or exhaling- there is no static moment with breathing! While we are experiencing a shift in our life, it may be viewed from a smaller perspective and seem terrifying. However, taken from a bigger perspective (such as imagining the course of our life, or even the course of history) a shift we personally, or society at large is experiencing, can be seen in context as part of a greater pulsation which is always occurring. This can be very comforting.

The breath is also the gateway to our higher self. The breath is present in each moment, but is often clouded in our daily experience through our lack of awareness. Just like the breath, our highest self is also always present. Through observing our breath we can be in touch with our greater awareness, and find the piece of us that is
steady throughout life’s many twists and turns.

Try this very simple but powerful exercise to bring you into the present moment using the breath:

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent
  • Begin with a feeling of openness and reception
  • Notice, without judgement, the rhythm of your inhale and exhale
  • Does your breath originate in your upper chest? Belly?
  • Is there motion through the front and back of the body?
  • Is the quality of breath smooth, steady, or irregular?
  • Without judgement, bring your awareness to the areas of your lower, mid and upper back which show less movement.
  • As you lightly rest your awareness in these areas, the breath should follow.
  • Do not attempt to control the breath, only allow the breath to follow your awareness.
  • Your breath should naturally deepen.
  • Finally, take a moment to dwell in the space of the witness, feeling steadiness behind the breath
  • Ask yourself “who is it that knows I am breathing?” and connect with that place

You can bring this practice into your daily live over the next few months. Simply notice your breathing pattern, take a moment to soften, and use your awareness deepen the inhale and exhale. This should help you find steadiness in the present moment, and ride the waves of uncertainty.

~ Michelle Downing DPT, RYT

Practice and learn with Michelle Fridays in Yoga Wall 12:15-1:15, and at her spring workshop Anatomy of Breath, May 5.