breathing for anxiety and well-being....
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU....
May the Force be with you beautiful one, may it make you strong and calm and all the things you want to be.
May it help you take your power back and revel in it.
May it heal your broken body, your reeling mind and restore you.
May it be the light within you, may it be your solace.
Because that is what it is to me, all of those things and so much more.
By force, while I’m envisaging light sabers and wanting awesomely plated hair, I mean life force - our prana, our qi.
This invisible and yet tangible power that we hold within us, and rarely connect with or utilise, because no one told us we could. Well, except all the yogis, but you know what I mean….
With everything that's happening at the moment, all the fear, anger, injustice, turmoil and anxiety that simply can't be ignored because we're living it, seeing it and experiencing it daily in multiple different ways, it's become even more important to practice self-care. Self-care so that we have the power to stand up for what we believe in. To stand up for justice and humanity, kindness and acceptance of all beings everywhere and their universe given right to equality.
It doesn't matter if it's a battle you're facing within your own body, or an external challenge - if you don't nurture you, you can't face the storm.
So what can you do to bring a little self-care to your every day?
You can breathe.... .
It's so simple and yet one of the most powerful tools we have. Especially if we feel too unwell to do anything else. The breath is the bridge between body and mind, heart and soul. It is the connection that grounds, soothes, energises and heals. It is whatever we need it to be in any given moment. By learning pranayama or breath control, we are stepping into a world of infinite possibilities, of magic, of alchemy. Be shaping the breath, we can slow the mind, centre, heal and transform. We can reduce anxiety, allow our bodies to find their parasympathetic place, stimulate the vagus nerve and alter our brain chemistry.
We can encourage our energy to flow, our lymph glands to detox, our cells to raise their vibrational frequency.
I’m not going to pretend for one minute that if you’re facing a challenge which is seemingly insurmountable, overwhelming and hugely shit, that the breath can instantaneously sort that shit out….
I’m not going to imply that we can all heal, have peace and be cured of everything that ails us, by utilising the breathe, because that is bollocks, and I can’t stand it when people insist their way is the only way, their fix the only fix and you’re just not trying hard enough.
We each have our own journey….
Some journeys are a damn site tougher than others.
Some journeys are pitted with vicious obstacles, and for anyone on a journey like that, I just want to pause for a moment and bow to you. To the light still shinning in you, your courage, your steadfastness and the fact you’re still here. Fucking awesome.
What I am going to do is be completely honest and tell you what pranayama or breath control, direction, manipulation, mastery whatever you want to call it - did for me and why I needed it when every other process I attempted failed.
My mum was dying, I was nursing her - and because I’m a girl and the doctors knew I was socially conditioned to do it, they did not step in. No hospice, no nurses, no help. It is not like the films when that happens.
It is someone screaming in agony 24/7, throwing up blood ripping their catheter free. It piss, shit, gore and mind numbing hell. Being squeamish is irrelevant. You get over that quickly. Being tired is also irrelevant, you get over that too.
It is hell when you’re only 20 and your other parent is adding to the load not taking from it, is suicidal and demanding, at best. When you have soul responsibility for earning the money, looking after your younger sibling, finishing your studies and not flaking on your friends.
No one taught me to put myself first, no one cared if I was exhausted or at my wits end. I didn’t grow up in a family like that. I had no experience of self-care or self-love. I didn’t ever stop to breathe.
When I got cancer myself, no one cared. While my mum lay dying, I faced my own mortality and I carried on, because what the fuck else would I do? Dinners needed to made, floors scrubbed, humans and animals cared for.
I carried on, I swallowed the pain and fear whole. I gulped it down, I let the weight sit on my shoulders and I kept going.
Every day it felt like I was existing a little less, breathing a little more shallowly, apologising a little more.
Then I got the tick bite, and for the first time in my life, in addition to everything else, I felt panic. Anxiety. All consuming fear.
Serious screaming, terrifying, blood chilling panic. The sort that rips your heart out and leaves you on the floor wanting to die just for the release.
Suddenly, I had no control over my emotions, my thoughts, my body. I was fighting an infection I was unaware of, my organs were struggling to function, my brain was swelling and my thoughts, my soul, the very essence of me, of all that held me together, were shattering into a million pieces.
I’d never experienced anything like it. That sensation haunts me. It still creeps up on me in the middle of the night, taps me on the shoulder and tears me from my dreams, threatening to return, to consume me, to eat me alive.
If you’re feeling anything like that right now –
Inhale through your nose for me, slowly, count the inhale, take it down to your belly. Push your belly out.
Hold the breath, just for a second and feel that power, that energy, that tingling, that’s you, that’s your life force.
Now exhale… hard, through the mouth and let all the stored up emotion out.
If you want to roar with that exhale, roar.
Growl, make any noise that feels good.
It might not feel like it, but in doing that, you are releasing rather than storing anger, hurt, fear, pain, fury. I wish I'd know to do that, I wish my body hadn't been so vulnerable and so full of stored emotion when I got bitten.
The panic was my body fighting Lyme disease, it was all that had gone before and not been addressed. It was living in an environment that was cruel and dangerous. It was many things, a culmination of many, many things, what it wasn’t was manageable. Or so I thought.
After seeing practitioner after practitioner, where I literally begged for tools, I felt hopeless, lost. Nothing worked.
I was not, I am not an anxious person. I don’t actually believe anyone is. I think they just haven’t found the root cause of their anxiety, their pain, their trauma - or a way that suits them to cope with it.
But anxious is how I felt, unheard, not remotely powerful and kind of ashamed.
Discovering that I had Lyme was huge, starting a Lyme killing protocol was also huge, using food as a healing modality and medicine while learning about environmental stressors was also a game changer.
But breath control, learning to utilise the breath to soothe my fighting body, to kick me back into my parasympathetic nervous system and out of the heady, sympathetic place that I inhabited for years, was fuck off epic.
The breath control, unlike any Lyme treatment I know of, is free, at your fingertips and completely yours to apply or not apply.
It was and is my power.
I still cry, get lost, I still scream, I’m still irrational and scared and all the things a human can be, but I’m also predominantly calm when I could be terrified all the time, I’m grounded when I could be reeling. I’m stable when I could have lost it, completely, like completely, completely.
I’m still living with my ex, he’s still alive..... there you go, what more evidence could you possibly want…
The reason for that is my breath, not positive thoughts, not the right attitude not snapping myself out of it and burying my emotions deep, it’s my ability to use my breath when I need it most.
It can be your power too.
It’s transformative, nourishing, nurturing, supportive and empowering.
It’s the quickest way out of your head and into your heart.
It’s facing all the obstacles with an army of breathing practises rather than fuck all.
It’s the direction of prana, of life force, and the application of that life force, your very essence for a desired goal…not feeling like shit is a good place to start.
It’s strength in the darkest hour, light and hope when everything else has been stripped unceremoniously away.
If you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, beyond hope, sit with me for a moment.
Find a comfortable place to sit or lie.
Spine straight and long.
Chin tucked, nape of the neck long.
Relax the space between your eyebrows.
Soften your jaw.
Soften your gaze.
Take one hand to your belly. The other to your heart.
Watch your breath. Observe it.
Now guide it…it is yours to guide, to control, to shape, to explore.
Inhale for 4 beats all the way down, pressing your belly against your hand.
Hold for four beats.
Exhale for four beats, feel your hand sink back towards your spine as your empty everything you don’t want out, all the feelings, thoughts, sensation, let the fuckers go.
Hold the breath out for four beats.
Repeat and repeat again.
That’s Samma Vritti.
The box breath.
The steadying breath.
The equal breath.
It always reminds me that we are all equal. All deserving of love, peace and calm. Of hope and energy and all the good things.
If you had a go, if you joined me in the box breath, you’ve just practiced pranayama.
The direction of your life force. You’ve just started to take your power back.
If you’d like to join me for a breathing class, you are welcome, always.
Just click on zoom classes and get ready to take your power back. That’s what the yoga I teach is all about, you, your power, the magic that lies within you. The magic that is you.
May the force be with you. Always.
I’d really like a light saber…..