Where do you want to go?

Mind follows breath

“There is no doubt that breath control is the means for mind control because the mind, like breath, is a part of air; because the nature of mobility is common to both; because the place of origin is the same for both; and because when one of them is controlled, the other gets controlled.” (Ramana Maharshi)

When we experience shock or intense fear, we hold our breath.

When we feel anxious, stressed or depressed our breath is very shallow.

It is not healthy for our physiology. And we can become locked in this state.

To shift from these states we need to focus on our breathing. Allow the breath to be in control.

The power of breath

One of my most memorable experiences of the power of breath comes from a time when I worked on cruise ships. All staff and passengers were assigned muster stations in case of emergency, and we were doing a drill. One of the passengers in my station began having an anxiety attack, and he didn’t have his medication with him.

I drew him aside and had him sit down. Then I took his hands, had him look into my eyes and follow my instructions on breathing. We counted a slow and even deep inhale and exhale. Within seconds he began to calm down, and after a few minutes he felt relaxed. I think I was as relieved as he was that it worked.

Breathing techniques

Drawing in deep breath, using the full capacity of our lungs, is the starting point. There are numerous breathing techniques (pranayama) that we can use to more specifically influence our mind. I teach some of these in my courses and classes.

Pause where you are now. What is the quality of your breath? And what is the state of your mind?

As always, I’d love to hear your experiences and observations of the mind-breath relationship.

2 thoughts on “Where do you want to go?

  1. Hi Wendy
    When the pandemic began and South Africa made mask-wearing mandatory, I struggled to wear them. It gave me anxiety and I had panic attacks. My breathing became rapid and I felt like I was going to suffocate. This was also partly because of suffering from a pulmonary embolism in 2018 that had left me with a similar feeling…not being able to breathe.

    Talking myself through the attack definitely helped. I would take long deep breaths and tell myself to be calm. Every now again I do feel slightly overwhelmed but consciously working through it means that they don’t happen very often. It is amazing what our minds are capable of doing, isn’t it?

    I hope you are safe and well

    1. Dear Leigh, I am mortified to have missed your comment! Somehow I only saw it today. I’m so sorry for taking ages to respond. 😯 I really try to be careful about how I communicate.

      It must be terrifying not to be able to breath. Personally, I have never had that experience. But I can relate to your struggle with wearing a mask. Its totally unnatural to block off our air passages. A while back I bought a mask specifically for air pollution, which gets very bad here at certain times of the year. But after trying it on a hike I came home and cried instead! It was awful. I couldn’t breath properly and wasn’t enjoying the hike at all.

      In some ways I am glad that everyone has experienced how terrible it is to wear a mask. And these ones aren’t even effective against air pollution. The good ones are much harder to breath through. So we are far less likely to embrace the idea of wearing anti-pollution masks as a longterm solution.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experience of how conscious breath and thinking helped you to work through that crisis. Once we experience that something works it also gives us more confidence in the tools and techniques we use. And I think they also work quicker because we are more easily able to enter a desired altered state, and perhaps even stop ourselves from tipping into an undesirable one.

      Love engaging with you! 🧡💜

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