Our breath is the portal into down regulation, or the “rest and digest” part of our nervous system. Think about it, what’s the one thing you don’t do when you are stressed or scared? Breathe! When you’re totally relaxed, like in that moment just before you fall asleep, your breath (hopefully) is ballooning your belly with every round.
This is a lesson I am in the process of learning. For the last year or so, every time I would walk out of a classroom after teaching, I noticed that my ears were completely stuffed up. Some days, it was to the point that I could hardly hear anything; it was almost as if I had earplugs in! At a recent appointment with my ART/Chiropractic/Body Whisperer Extrordinaire, Dr. Christopher Tosh D.C. (seriously, go check him out), I mentioned the weird hearing loss post-teaching that would last for a few hours. He suggested that perhaps I was only taking shallow chest breaths that were over working my neck and upper chest muscles and the tension was creating the hearing loss. Me? Stress breathing?? Of course! It made perfect sense – when I am teaching, I sometimes felt this overwhelming adrenaline rush that made the class and my words feel like they were traveling at 100 MPH.
It was really easy to take Dr. Tosh’s advice and put it into immediate practice. While I was teaching, I made the conscious effort to take a belly breath whenever I could. Many times, this just meant that while the class was breathing, I was breathing with them. What a novel thought, right? ;) The change was immediate! I have not had any issues with my hearing since. The fix was seriously as simple as just taking a breath.
This doesn’t mean that I will now be a belly breather every breath for the rest of my life. That is not practical if you need to stay awake for anything. But it does mean that whenever my focus is drawn to my breath, I take a full belly breath. Because who knows what’s happening when I’m not paying attention!
The same goes for posture and all the movement tweaks I work on and encourage others to make – it’s not an all or nothing change. All it takes to change your “normal” is to make the tiny adjustments when you notice. So, you look down and you notice that your left foot is slightly turned out? No worries, make it parallel, and pretty soon you will duck feet less often.
Even if you are not experiencing the same weird hearing loss I was, I challenge you to work on your breath this week. Every chance you notice, take a breath…and see what happens.
Not sure how to breathe? Watch a baby – they spend all their time puffing up their cute little bellies with every breath they take. The secondary breathing muscles haven’t learned how to stress breathe yet.
So let’s all be babies, and breathe into our bellies when we can.
Want some more info on how to breathe? Check out this YouTube video I did on how to breathe in yoga!