Let your breath help you move outside your comfort zones

This piece is about our bodies. As complex as we have become, humans are still animals with some very very old neuro-physiological systems. We ignore them to the detriment of our health, relationships and dreams.

Making changes in our lives, however big or small, requires us to step into the unknown, to move out of our comfort zone into unchartered territory.

We can experience all sorts of emotions during these periods, with some degree of anxiety and fear likely to be present. This can turn up as unpleasant physical sensations, from slight butterflies in the stomach and tight throats all the way to feeling like we might be sick, insomnia at night and visibly pounding hearts. These sensations are often accompanied by unhelpful thoughts and stories about ourselves and other people - affecting how we read a situation and the motivations and intentions of others.

Even if we don’t see ourselves as nervous or lacking confidence, these physical sensations and internal stories can turn up in surprising situations that take us off guard. We might freeze, losing mental clarity and effective communication skills when we need them the most. Unfortunately, we then often blame ourselves, when all that’s really happening is the emotion-regulation systems of our animal bodies are a bit out of whack and need soothing. Simple.

Thankfully, there are straight-forward, tried and tested techniques we can practice regularly and call on when we need them the most. Last year I came across one from the world of freediving, of all places, which fits well within our myth of “Journey to the Deep”.

My partner and I have semi-vague plans to do some major sailing (mainly based on his experience - all I’ve done is a leisurely holiday around the Med….). A couple who run the Project Atticus Youtube channel that we watch went diving without oxygen canisters. I was intrigued by the breathing technique they learnt as it both energises the body and slows down the heart rate - perfect for calming my nerves while staying alert and clear. I don’t want a deeply relaxing technique that sends me to sleep when I’m about to present at a Board meeting!

I’ve taught a version of the Breathe-Up that doesn’t overly hyperventilate our body, since we aren’t actually about to dive, in meditation classes and retreats. It’s gone down really well, so I’m sharing it with you below - breathe in and out through your nose, unless you’ve got a cold of course! See if you can try it out a few times this week and note down the effect.

As with all breathing exercises, you do need to listen to your own body and take responsibility for it. If you start feeling weird at all, stop. Perhaps you need to reduce the count of the out breath so you can breathe a bit more frequently. Or maybe you need to breathe in less sharply. Ping me over an email at info@aryanisha.com if you have any questions.

Modified Breathe-Up: Exercise to balance our emotion-regulation systems

Notice how your breath is moving in your body, then bring your awareness down to your belly. Is your breath moving down into here or not?

Breathe deep into your belly for a count of two, allowing it to really fill out forwards like a big balloon.

Pause for a count of two (don’t tense up).

Breathe fully into your ribcage for a count of two, focusing on it moving all the way out sideways as your lungs fill. Try to keep your shoulders from moving up a lot as you do this.

Pause for two.

Breathe out slowly all the way for a count of 10.

Repeat at least five times.

Notice how your breath moves now when you allow it to move naturally now. Has it changed at all? How do you feel?

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