When we’re in pain, we understandably want to get out of that pain as quickly as possible and back to our usual routines. In addition to consistently attending any therapies we’ve been prescribed, there are other ways to be proactive about our healing process–and one of those is optimizing a process that we’re already doing every second of our lives!
That’s right, dear friends–our breathing habits can be used to our advantage to facilitate our healing process. On the surface, it may seem that our respiratory patterns have no special relationship to the way our body feels, but consider the following:
*Our mental and emotional reactions (ackh!! When is this pain ever gonna go away!?! I’m so over this!! This freakin’ sucks!!) to the sensations of pain in our body are themselves possible causes of agitation in the nervous system and thus can directly contribute to the suffering we wish to be free from. Deep, mindful breathing, properly practiced, helps facilitate a calmer mind, reducing agitation in the nervous system and helping to increase comfort in areas of tension and inflammation.
*Tense muscles can develop a condition of decreased levels of oxygen available for normal cellular functioning–a state known as hypoxia (high-pok-see-yuh). Hypoxic environments can signal immune cells to produce inflammatory chemicals, keeping the wheel of pain turning. Deep, mindful breathing–when practiced consistently–can significantly increase oxygen levels in the blood and therefore help reduce the severity of hypoxia.
*On a more abstract level, deeper breathing enhances the clarity of our thinking and allows us to develop depth of self-awareness. The latter is a crucial part of our healing process–enabling us to see where we are holding on to negativity (anger, bitterness, resentment, impatience, fear, worry, etc.) regarding our daily experience with pain. Being aware of negativity we may be holding onto is the first step in releasing it and walking forward on the path of forgiveness.
Our article on deep, mindful breathing has a tutorial to get you started.
I encourage you to set aside 3-5 minutes, three or four times throughout your day, to engage in quiet practice of integrated breathing. check in with yourself every so often (once an hour is reasonable) and ask: how am I breathing right now? With the light of attention on your respiration, make any adjustments necessary to optimize your process.
It’s worth repeating: the benefits only accrue with consistent practice, dear friends.
Healing is an ongoing process. Whatever methods we can incorporate into our daily rhythms to push the odds of a positive outcome in our favor should be given the right space to be studied, installed, and reinforced through repetition. Proper breathing is simple to learn, and can help you experience less pain and greater well-being today. Reach out to me with any questions, and feel free to leave a comment!