Was the way I breathed really so wrong? And why should I care?I was on a massage table in West L.A. the first time I was forced to think about the way I breathe. The massage therapist – we’ll call him “Zen” – was trying to coach me on my inhalations and exhalations, an unsolicited critique following every breathy noise I made. “Don’t hold your breath,” he told me several times. “Breathe with me,“ he would say in between loud grunt-breaths. “I can’t hear your exhales.” What? I was here hoping to doze off while he worked out some stubborn knots in my back. Sensually breathing with a judgey stranger was most certainly not what I had in mind.
I finished the massage with one eye open and walked out of the tranquil spa agitated. Growing up, I had pretty bad asthma, so simply not having to puff on an inhaler as an adult was success in my book. Was the way I breathed really so wrong? And why should I care? As much as it pained me to admit it, Zen had gotten me thinking.
This style of breathing that Zen was unsuccessfully trying to teach me, where you breathe deeply with your belly and not shallowly with your chest, has numerous names – mindful, diaphragmatic, natural, belly. It has a host of benefits attached to it, like lower blood pressure, reduced pain, and being key to that fabled mind-body connection.
“People talk about the mind-body connection a lot, but the only real tool we have to bridge the two is the breath,” said Lucas Rockwood, the founder of YOGABODY Naturals & Absolute Yoga Academy, one of the 10 biggest yoga training schools in the world. “It’s automatic, but if we take control over it, there are very profound and measurable effects on our biology and mental states within minutes.”
Unfortunately, few of us reap these benefits anymore.