Breathing is Divine

Breathing – an automatic bodily function that we rarely give any thought to. But as well as its biological necessity, such as distributing oxygen, the breath is also inextricably linked to our emotions. From the deep breathing of a relaxed, contented state to the shallow inhalations that come with excitement.

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Running was my go-to exercise. Here I am completing the 2000 marathon.

I got a huge lesson about breathing when I attended a retreat a few years back. Much of my day was taken up with consuming vast amounts of chickpeas and kale,  suppressing the subsequent farts this created and a desperate bid to stay awake through yoga classes – of which I am not a fan. At the time, I saw yoga as the boring sensible cousin of just about every other form of exercise. The fact that lying down was a pose, was just plain silly, or so I thought. My mind needed distractions but with yoga I was forced to contend with the constant racket in my brain.

But then I learned a little about the history of the practice and how it was conceived for male warriors. The purpose was to strengthen the body so they could sit. They sat so they could meditate – and they meditated so they could breathe and the breath was how they connected to God. Interesting, I thought.

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My Wonder Women-inspired warrior pose

So on this retreat I realised that perhaps I was approaching yoga the wrong way. As a pathological goal setter, I was entirely focused on achieving the poses. I followed the instructions about where to put my hand or foot – like a professional twister player – all the time ignoring the directions about breathing. Half way through the week, thinking about those warriors, I decided to take a different tack and focused only on the breath, breathing as instructed and letting that rather than the movement be my focus. 

At first it just felt like something else I had to think about. Hadn’t I got enough on my mind trying to rest my ear on my knee? But eventually, something magical started to happen. My brain got quiet and I started to tap into something else – an inner peace. Of course, as soon as I started to think about it, I lost it, going back to my usual mental clamour but at least now I had a reference point. 

And even though, after that retreat, I never took up a regular yoga practice, if ever I was feeling stressed or experiencing the buildup of unhelpful emotions, I would take a few deep inhalations and literally expel that negativity. It makes sense really.  Isn’t that why we breathe a sigh of relief when things work out or why we sigh to release our frustrations?

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I was once told by a very wise woman, that anxiety is excitement minus breath i.e. an emotion can be transformed by letting your breath flow. And I fully concur. Of course we need breath for those fundamental biological reasons but perhaps there is also something divine to it too, something we can all access.  

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2 thoughts on “Breathing is Divine

  • 1. Very belated congrats on your completed marathon. That’s quite an achievement.
    2. I’ve really missed my weekly yoga class this past 15 months or so. I DO hope lots of people will take inspiration from your words on _breathing_.
    3. There is no number three.

    • hahaha very belated. Think it was over 20 years ago but thank you πŸ™‚
      And yes, let’s all keep breathing πŸ™‚

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