An extended article written for Snowboard Canada Magazine.
Above food and water, breath is the most vital nutrient required for survival, with its expansion and contraction the necessary movement of life-force through our body. Through its animating quality, breath gives the material body its living essence and with each inhale and exhale, there is a taking in of new, and a letting go of old. It is our breath that supports us on our journey inward while creating the capacity of our perspective outward - our thirst for adventure, the risks we take, the challenges faced and the rewards we seek. The breath is there, in many patterns, connecting us to all of it. Once we understand it, we are able to harness it as one of our greatest tools of recovery, clarity, focus acceptance, resilience, capacity, exploration and courage.
The practice of breathwork is one that is re-awakening, its impacts and benefits experienced by those seeking to do the inner work. Every emotion is connected to a breath pattern, how we think is how we feel and how we feel is how we breath. Ultimately, how we breathe, is how we are living.
Our breath patterns are created by us through the nature of our own life experiences. A gateway between the conscious and the subconscious, this practice allows us to correct them and the symptoms we have created as a result in our body.
During experiences of exhilaration, happiness and even more so - times of challenge, uncertainty and the unknown. Breath teaches us to be with all that is moving, pushing us to connect with a rawness within, to move what may be stagnant, feel into our shadows, be comfortable with being uncomfortable, create new openings.
Breath activates nervous system, changes the endocrine system, changes brain function. It is the connection between mind, body and spirit. It is our own gas pedal and our brake pedal.
What it shifts within us ripples through our projections - our drive, how we show up, how we receive others. It helps to condition us to the demands of stamina and resistance. We need to do the work within ourselves to amplify the work we do in the world and reconnecting to the breath can help us to lay the foundations of our own self care.
As athletes, resilience is always challenged, performance always measured and mental and emotional strength tested as much as physical endurance. Pressure to exceed, frustrations with injuries and depression with recovery - to take the risk in this sport is to take a risk within ourselves and self care is vital.
Physical recovery time does not honour the time it takes to process and complete a trauma or injury that can effect us emotionally and mentally within our conscious and on a deeper, sub conscious level.
To move through a trauma that is injury or an experience associated, whether life changing or not - the damage goes deep beyond the physical. It continues to replay within us, down to a cellular level. Our body stores memories and emotions within each cell and it is the mind and our subconscious which stores every life experience. The breath is our portal to tap into this.
Our experiences and traumas of the past are also linked to the way we breathe. This can be expressed through mental, emotion and physical symptoms. Through breathing we are able to discover and recover these parts of us.
To embody a specific breathing technique is a process that can support us in completing a trauma cycle and move forward out of a 'held' experience. When we aren’t able to fully complete an experience or trauma cycle in a natural way - our body can stay stuck in a fear state. Subconsciously, we can’t recognize this. Unable to ‘stamp’ an experience as being in the past, this trauma cycle can continue, running in the background, causing us to live in a constant response of fear, panic and stored survival stress.
Where there is discomfort or disconnect in certain parts of our body we start to change neuroplasticaly how we breath and we start to activate epigenetically other areas of our body so we actually change our whole physiology and the way we think through unprocessed emotion and trauma. Change our endocrine system so we can change digestion so we can change our sleep pattern, our subconscious breath pattern, building resistance, so we can create opportunity to heal. Breathwork allows us to complete our trauma cycles through this natural process and honouring doing so only as we are ready. Breathwork, helps us to relive and complete an experience which shifts us naturally - out of this sympathetic, adrenal response. It re-enables us to become fully present and aware, with relief from the fear associated, altering its way of showing up and your response to it.
Breathwork allows us access to this density in a gentle way, without force, only presence. We bring awareness to these areas in the body where there is a lack of freedom, integration, surrender, trust and relaxation.
There is an intelligence that runs through our nervous system. This practice has no agenda. It's you, the breath, and medicine of awareness that is helping you to heal and find greater wholeness and acceptance. Like a pebble in a pond, the ripples will radiate outward.
The courage to go as big and as deep into your self as you do in the mountains. To peel back the layers, to step into the unknown, commit to it and to see it through. Take a breath and explore the terrain within you.