I was working on a client’s knee this week and as she was releasing a pain pattern, I noticed she was holding her breath. She was surprised when I mentioned it; but knowing her history of falling and tearing her meniscus and then having surgery for a meniscus repair in same knee, I was not. As she released the pain pattern, she began to have sensations that her body perceived as a threat.
When the body is threatened whether that threat is perceived or real, an acute stress response is triggered or what is commonly known as a fight, flight or freeze response is activated. When this happens, Adrenaline is produced and a series body. responses are activated including your breathing
So when my client held her breathe in that moment, her body was telling me what she was experiencing was a threat and it was too much for her. I softened my touch, tuned in more and asked her if she could breathe in a gentle belly inhale and exhale the tension that had been created by her body holding the breathe.
The take away from this story is that if you find yourself holding your breathe or shallow breathing, stop and check in to see what has you threatened, ask yourself is it true and then encourage yourself to take gentle belly breathes until you feel relaxed. See the how to tip below.
The number 1 body sign that lets you know you are stressed out is holding your breathe!
Holding the breathe tells you that the body is perceiving a threat at some level and it is registering it as too much, too fast, too soon for it so it holds you in place so you don’t feel it. In the moment is very effective but over time you produce less oxygen as breathing is essential for living and the body cannot last more than a few minutes without it.
Amy’s Tip when holding your breathe~
First pay attention to your breathing during the day and notice how often you are holding your breathe. You may be surprised by the number of times you hold your breathe.
When you notice you are not breathing, exhale first and then take a gentle breathe into belly. If this does not make sense, think about when you are startled- you take a breath in and hold it but you do not exhale. You must first exhale and then begin anew.
Amy’s tip- How to Belly Breath
Put a hand on belly
Take a gentle breathe in as you do, you should feel your hand rise on inhale and soften on exhale.
Repeat 3-5 times
Shallowing Breathing or chest breathing is another way the body manages too much stress or pain. I compare this type of breathing to trending water. Body is using this type of breathing to keep you from experiencing whatever the threat is too deeply- it is a holding pattern. It is an excellent managing tool but in the long run it diminishes you relaxation response and increases your stress response in body.
Belly Breathing is the ideal for a healthy body. When the body is able to breathe all the way to belly, diaphragmatic breathing is what it is called, the body can handle whatever is coming at it as it doesn’t feel threatened and can actually expand into a deepen state of relaxation.
Practice belly breathing daily to improve your relaxation response and decrease your relaxation response.