Breath can answer many important questions about one’s health. If we are friends with our breath, we are likely in better health mentally and physically than someone who is not. What do I mean by friends with our breath? We are aware of it. We pay attention to it. We use it to calm ourselves and generally to understand ourselves. We study our breath and in doing so, our breath brings us peace.
Understanding my breath patterns at age fifty helped me realize that I had been suffering from Post-traumatic Stress, or PTS, since my surgery at one-month-old for pyloric stenosis, a stomach obstruction. In my class at MIBE, Middendorf Institute for Breathexperience, I received the necessary support to overcome my fears and begin learning from my breath.
A little background is important here. From breath classes, I learned that there are basically three types of breath: the willed breath as in ‘take a deep breath’; the unconscious or autonomic breath—that which we do automatically without thinking; and the conscious or aware breath: the automatic breath of which you become aware. To my mind, this third type of breath most aids us in healing.
Initially in classes, I discovered that my breathing was quite shallow, but the safer I felt, the more I allowed myself to experience just how compromised it was. Why was I stopping short from allowing deeper, more full breaths? Why just below my ribcage was my breath caught? I learned that I was trying to protect my abdomen, the place where I’d been operated on over fifty years ago at twenty-six-days old.
As a baby needing surgery in 1952, I hadn’t received adequate anesthesia or pain control afterward. Babies didn’t feel pain, the medical profession believed. Doctors were also afraid anesthesia and painkillers would damage infants’ brains and nervous systems. So there I was at twenty-six days old, dealing with excruciating pain on my own.
Through manipulating my breath, I learned to reduce the pain. In the process though, my natural breath suffered. It broke, if you will. I unconsciously adopted this pattern of breathing in my day-to-day life, a shallow, terrified, incomplete, and protective breath.
If we allow ourselves to understand where our breath is blocked, we have taken a strong step on the road to healing. And when we begin to allow our breath to occupy our body more completely, we discover more freedom and better health. As we learn about and embrace our breath, we befriend it. We become more whole.