The breath is a powerful thing – a life-sustaining element crucial to our existence. Even though this may seem to be something we all know, I believe there is value in taking another look at breath in the context of therapeutic practice. My own experience is that sometimes “just take a breath” can become more of a stale and worn out cliché rather than a grounding reminder or mantra. Yet, in taking off our clinical hat, we can ask ourselves, when is the last time we connected to our breath? I mean, really connected. Maybe it was in the car ride to work this morning or in that encounter with the grouchy employee at your regular coffee spot that never seems to get your order right. Or just maybe, it wasn’t even a thought at all.
It can be difficult to remember to practice these simple techniques, but breath work can be a crucial reminder of our humanity and how sometimes we become so separated from ourselves; especially if we have a tendency to try living life as a “superhuman”, forgetting to extend grace and compassion towards our own shortcomings.
Research has taught us that breathing is a powerful action to help connect in therapeutic work. Breathing is also the most basic form of caring for oneself. This is an important reminder as sometimes life experiences propel us to put on more and more body armor, which ultimately detracts from the human connection our clients need from us in order to succeed in their recovery.
There are many reasons we as humans need more to rely on for self-care than simply our autonomic nervous system; we must engage and invest in ourselves with intentionality in order to be the best version of ourselves. Despite having worked in eating disorder treatment for over five years, I am still a relatively new clinician and am learning this practice of “Taking a Breather”. I continually find myself running off into my tasks and getting separated from my own breath work. I get overwhelmed by the day and lose track of the simplest tool to help with my own grounding-one that is available to me any time of day.
From my own experience, I have found that it has become beneficial for me to integrate my breath work in quiet moments, such as on car rides home from work. And though it is typically easier to remember this on good days and difficult on more challenging days, I remind myself that this is normal. When I do remember to incorporate breath work into my daily practice, I find that I am able to benefit in not only the good moments but, also, I am amazed at how it makes it easier to stay present and engaged during the hectic and stressful moments – the moments that are so often a part of our lives.
Hopefully these musings on the breath can serve as a reminder of the powerful work that we all do every time we take a breath; nourishing our body and mind in this process. We can evoke more change, right more wrongs, heal more wounds – as long as we engage with our breath and connect to our body, mind, and spirit.
Quite often, we are all capable of more than we think we are if we… just… breathe.