I tend to hold my breath. A lot. I’m not talking about when I do it to stop the hiccups, or to keep from inhaling secondhand smoke — although I do that too. Those are the times I hold consciously, briefly, for a reason that I am aware of on the surface. What I’m referring to now are the times when I don’t realize that I’ve been holding my breath, repeatedly… for reasons that simmer underneath the surface, nonchalantly glossed over as unimportant, until they bubble over and I have no choice but to address them.
The consequences of that breath holding have been building for a few weeks, and were exacerbated by the flurry of earthquakes we’ve had here in SoCal since St. Patrick’s Day. I generally don’t get all faklempt over the earth shaking, but we haven’t had a good one (good meaning expletive-eliciting shaking that causes me to fly out of bed at the speed of light to check on Maya) in quite a while, and that Shamrock Shaker was a good one. Put that together with a stressful week or two at work and bam – pretty intense light-headed/dizziness, insomnia, clenching of the jaw and a racing mind (not to mention heartbeat) became a common occurrence. The dizziness was what finally got me to go to the doctor, who diagnosed me with (yep, you guessed it) stress and a sinus component, but it really got me thinking about my coping mechanisms for situations that make me anxious, particularly the one that involves not breathing…which led me to…
Resuscitation. You usually hear this term in reference to CPR (as in cardiopulmonary resuscitation), but it’s also the word that kept popping up in my brain today when I was doing my vinyasa flow in yoga. In case you don’t know, vinyasa is usually the word used to describe the movements linked with breath that you perform in your Sun Salutations sequence. Sun Salutations generally include downward dog, plank, an upward dog and a lot of deep breathing. I won’t use the Sanskrit terms for now because a) I don’t know them by heart and 2) they’re besides the point I’m trying to make. For various reasons, (the predominant one being I hurt my shoulder the last time I went), I haven’t been to a class since the end of February. And even though my shoulder is still not 100% (it’s not even 70% really), I went today anyway in hopes that it would help me cope with my anxious responses to the situations in my life, if not cure my shoulder’s ills.
It did help the shoulder a bit, but more than anything, it reminded me of the connection between breath and movement and how essential it is for life, and more importantly a conscious one. I came home feeling lighter (figuratively, and…it squeezes the water out of me like nothing else), calmer, and felt a vitality and peace that I haven’t felt in a while. Quite literally, I was resuscitated.
It’s those feelings I need to remember when the anxiety creeps back in, which it always does at one time or another, and instead of holding my breath, I just need to remember to exhale.