If you often feel tensed and stressed; you are running all the time, and don't even know why. If you sometimes snap at your children for no reason.. or simply, you often find yourself holding your breath.. This article may interest you! We'll see how, when you breathe correctly, you may improve your life in unsuspected ways.
Why should I pay attention to how I breathe?
Let's be honest. How many times a day do we think about our breath?
To the importance of breathing, and to the existence of different techniques to breathe, I payed attention only when I started taking singing lessons. I was 20.
I was taught what the diaphragm is, and how difficult it is to reproduce certain sounds in a melodic and melodious way without the right support with proper musculature, posture and breathing. Before, breathing was something I just did not ever think about.
In order to sing, I had to focus on my breath. I then realized how many times anxiety and nervousness, made me breathe up high to the chest; and how ventral "low" breathing conciliated instead a state of calm. This is quite physiological since the increase of the respiratory rate is a response to stress (the so called "fight or flight response").
It still surprises me. Why in the world do we encounter so many difficulties as adults to just breathe? I mean, it's such a natural mechanism! Children and animals do it right effortlessly. But as we grow, we disconnect so much from ourselves, we forget. And then we need to pay attention and to exercise to relearn..
Connected: 6 things any parent should know about stress
Life teaches us the hard way
Anyways, let's come back to the story. In that moment of my youth, I only cared about breathing because I wanted to reach the high notes without singing out of tune.
The years have gone by, working, having children, taking care of the home ...the regular life style. Back pain has appeared. Stiffness in my neck and shoulders. Shouting when I lost patience with my children.
And every time I would realize that living in a climate of tension and threats is not the best way for my children to learn life rules. Nor to grow in harmony and balance.
That's not what I wanted for them, nor for myself. But as I was running through my daily activities, little time did I have to really stop and think about all that. Reflect upon my priorities and the ways I did want my life to be.
What does all of this have to do with breathing, you'll say? Hang on to it! I'll make that clear in a few lines.
At about the same time, in my gym they were offering a course called "Body Balance", Les Mills program . It's a mixture of yoga postures, pilates and thai-chi, all mixed up in a fitness fashion. So yoga purists do turn up their noses, but I must say that after attending the class, I always felt incredibly more serene, at peace with myself. Even stronger and more focused. A-ah!
A little step to change
Firstly though, I had to overcome my skepticism. I am a fairly active person and I need to move. Like a lot. So I was convinced that anything associated with yoga would not quite be tiring enough. (Yet all my muscles would ache after the class..)
But my automatic mechanism of doing, doing, doing, and running, was still there. So this course was often the first one that I would skip whenever my schedule was too busy, and I would focus on more energy-consuming classes.
Like the mouse in the wheel.. It doesn't know why, but keeps on running.
The problem with this eternal race is that it wears us out of energy. In the evening, back home, who paid the consequences? The people I love the most! I had no more patience for my children, no more strength to show my husband my love.
But do you think I would slow down? Nope. I would feel GUILTY. So then I would put further efforts to compensate for it, thus sucking up my energy even more. Sooner or later I would fall into exhaustion.
Finally, as my back ached more, forcing me to continue my reflection, I decided to break my prejudices. I enrolled in a yoga class.
(Truth to be told, I was living in Germany at the time, and would ride 25 km by bike every day just to bring my kids to school. I felt like I didn't need more energy-consuming sport.)
After a few sessions, once a week, my back pain was gone.
Connected: 5 simple secrets to feel better every day
How should we breathe then?
Without dwelling too much on the details of this path, let's return to the theme of today which was breathing - and to take things further, I suggest you watch these 2 interesting Ted Talk. This one about how to breathe :
Whereas this one is more about the physical effects of deep breathing:
1, 2, 3 Breathe! Where are the children?
You may wonder, "is there a way to teach all that to our children?"
I mean, obviously when we can keep our focus and master our emotions like a Yogi, children do notice and at a minimum, they are more relaxed.
But let's stay realistic here. Our own path towards wisdom does not end here. So, if we can take along our children, and teach them something useful for them and for our own sanity, it's even better right??
As I realized that meditation and yoga were helping me improve my posture and y concentration, I started looking for information on yoga and children. I then found out that many yoga centers do offer courses for and with children. I was intrigued, but as I couldn't attend to them personally, I bought a book about kids' yoga which presents exercises tailored to the age of my children. You can of course find many more on the topic.
I have yet to transform it into a daily routine, I admit, so I can't yet tell you about the results on my children. Post to be published in the future. But.
Let me tell you this story.
One day, I was having one of the many arguments with my daughter. I don't even remember what it was about. At some point, when I was really losing my temper, my youngest, two years and a few months old, looks straight at me and tells me: "MOM, breathe!"
He raises his arms, breathe, and then brings them back to the chest by his heart, hands joined as in prayer. He was showing me.
I almost died of laughter.
But an important lesson was there for me : breathing (and laughing!) are very useful tricks to calm down, and return to the present moment. Even my son got it at two years old! (Whether it's worth the price of a yoga book, I can't tell you.. Personal evaluation I dare say).
So I try to breathe deeply as soon as I feel tense, as soon as I feel that I lose control. I'm trying to do the same thing with my children. And that means that several times a day, I stop whatever I'm doing, and I think about how I breathe. I wonder "Am I running in the wheel again, rather than just being here and now?"!
On the importance of being.
At some point past this last winter, I did realize something simple but meaningful. The reason why I'm running all the time, is that I value more what I do than who I am.
Forgetting that it is my actions which depend on my being, and not the contrary.
Forgetting that what is rich inside me, is still there even when I don't do anything. But if I forget who I am, what is important to me, what motivates me.. My actions are empty and meaningless.
And I used to feel I was wasting my time and my resources whenever I would stop, thus widening the distance from my inner self.
It was early spring, sun was back again, so the children and I could have snack outside on the grass on our way home. For once, I decided I would just sit with them, putting my phone away, my books.. Just me and them. It struck me to realize that.. so much time did we spend together, so little present I was.
There was always a different thought in my mind, dragging me somewhere else. Instead, the more I learnt to listen and watch, the more I enjoyed my relationship with them.
Just observe my children, my husband. Taking my time to choose how to behave with them, how to react, how to rejoice with them. Stop thinking about what is in my to-do-list, what tomorrow could bring, what was yesterday.. thus losing energy and concentration. Stop undergoing the events, being overwhelmed with emotions, not able to control my reactions.
This is, to me, our most difficult path. We live in a world of distractions, all the time. Our key is to focus on the rest. How? Breathe. Think about your breathing. It will instantly send you back to the present moment.
Of course I'm not the only one talking and writing about all that, so if you want, here's another interesting conference you may want to watch.
To conclude... Just breathe. A good deep breath at the right time of the day. And it doesn't cost anything! 😉
And if you feel for, leave your comments below!
A few useful resources for you to dig deeper if you want!
Note: some links may be affiliate links. It means that if you buy something after clicking, I might get a small commission. All opinions are my own.
If you want to learn more about our stress response, you can check this article out!
Breathing, slowing down, focusing on being as the source of all our actions, although it might seem counterintuitive at first, all help us being more efficient in the long run. If you're skeptical and business-oriented, I suggest you read this thorough guide about how you can increase your productivity.
I first heard about Kate Northrup on a podcast, and I was really intrigued but her suggestions that we could all achieve more by actually focusing on less.. so I bought and devoured her last book, "Do Less", and I loved it. I didn't expect it would talk about women cycles and how we can adjust our schedule to our body needs, but I just found all her new perspective so intelligent and life-changing. I do really recommend it!
If you want to try teaching kids yoga, I do really suggest you take a look at Jamie's Youtube channel, Cosmic kids; and if you're more of a book type of person, you should take a look at Helen Garabedian's books. I do have "Itsy Bitsy Yoga for toddlers and preschoolers", and my children loved it!