The Right Way to Breathe
With all the breathing methods out there I often get the question, "What is the right way to breathe?" Well, after a lot of investigation and study, here is my answer: There is no right way to breathe.
Because the truth is, breathing isn’t right or wrong. It just is or it isn’t. And if you’re reading this, my guess is that you’re breathing. And however you’re breathing, right here and right now, is perfect.
How do I know this? Because I know our bodies are designed to breathe. And I also know that how we’re able to express that part of our design is dependent, in part, on biology, biography, and habituation. And whatever your biology, biography, and habits are, I’m here to tell you that, in this very moment, your breathing is perfect. Because your breathing is allowing you to experience this very moment. So your breathing is perfect in this very moment. And you are perfect in this very moment too.
“Everything is perfect and there is always room for improvement.” -Shunryu Suzuki
And yes, while both you and your breathing are perfect in this very moment, what about your next moment? Because each moment requires something different from us. Life is dynamic that way. It’s how we grow.
Life meets us in each moment and offers to help us more fully express the amazing persons we were born to be. Life invites us to be more fully alive. Life invites us to make the most of our biology, transcend our biography, and let go of habits that no longer serve us. All we have to do is accept life’s invitations. And it all begins with the breath.
When we were new to this world we were pretty darn good at accepting life’s invitations. And the first invitation we accepted was the invitation to breathe. That invitation was an invitation to life itself. And our baby selves said,“yes”. And we didn’t stop there. We then accepted the invitations of the next moments that life offered us by saying “yes” to new challenges and lessons about moving through the world. And odds are we didn’t nail each challenge on the first try. But that was ok. We learned by making mistakes. As babies we just kept on showing up. We kept on breathing.
And hey, turns out that breathing on our backs is different than breathing on our stomachs. And hey, breathing while rolling around is different than breathing when rocking and crawling. We learned that as babies. We learned it by sensing and feeling. We didn’t learn by thinking breathing. We learned by breathing. We moved and we breathed from good to better and headed towards best.
As babies we didn’t need to be cued or taught how to breathe. We learned by exploring the world. We learned by being playful. We learned by accepting the invitation inherent in each moment of movement. As babies we grew and learned with each breath we took on our backs and on our tummies. We learned about breathing while we rolled and rocked and crawled. We learned through wonder and awe. And by doing so we allowed more of our perfect selves and our awesome designs to be expressed.
But sometimes as we grow older we forget who we are. We forget to accept the invitations. We forget to breathe with the fullness of our design.
“Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” -Mary Oliver
We are designed to breathe for a lifetime. And how we breathe is how we live. Each moment, each breath, remains an invitation to live more fully. How we accept the invitation shapes our lives. Gratitude for the invitation leads to wholeness.
And yes, I know that none of us are going to always be full of wonder, awe, rainbows, and sunshine with each and every breath. Life can weigh us down with the stressors of the world. Each of us has moments of doubt, hurt, fear, and despair.
But I also know that the moments in which we embrace the miracle of breathing are moments in which we create space for healing. Theses are moments in which we can lay our burdens down. These are moments we create space to experience the wonder and awe and possibilities available to us in the now. These are moments in which we can remember who we are and how we are beautifully perfect in our imperfections.
So right here and right now, exhale and then breathe in and then let your breath out again. Repeat. Allow your breath to flow out and in like the waves on the beach. Effortless and fluid. Feel what it feels like. Sense it. No need to analyze it or think it. Just be with your breath. Allow yourself to be in awe of your breath. Allow yourself to be grateful for your breath.
And maybe, if you’re game, play with breathing in and out through your nose with your tongue placed gently on the roof of your mouth. No thinking. No judgements. Simply feel what it feels like. Sense your breath. And maybe even explore your breathing and feel what it feels like when you roll around and rock and crawl. Just like you did when you were new to this world.
And above all else, know that you are perfect. You were made to be. Breathe and take that in.
*an earlier version of this blog appeared on the Original Strength website here