By Susannah Scouller
The way we breathe changes everything, and is a constant reflection of how we feel inside. We are breathing every moment of our lives, awake or asleep, so it’s a lovely thing to work on and take smallsteps to change. And you only need you, no extra equipment or special surroundings.
Here are my own small steps to better breathing:
Relax Your Tongue
First of all notice where your tongue is. Most people’s tongues when not being used to speak or eat, are not at rest. We tend to retain constant tension in the tongue and have it touching the roof of the mouth (or slightly pressing against lower teeth). It’s an unconscious habit. Bring it into your consciousness, and let the tongue rest, just rest back and down on the base of the mouth. Do nothing with the tongue. See how that feels. Breathe in, and see if you can do so without any tension returning to the tongue. Let the tongue rest.
Relax Your Jaw
Notice that the jaw feels more relaxed as a result of releasing tension in the tongue. The neck and jaw are right next to each other, and neck and jaw tension are classic symptoms of anxiety. The tongue attaches to the jaw and the throat, the throat is housed by the neck, the neck is just the spine, the top of the back. Notice how releasing the tongue has an effect on the whole. And breathe.
Become Aware of Your Chest and Rib Cage
Whether sitting or standing (you choose) see if you can move your consciousness down a bit and notice the movement of the chest when you breathe. Is it lifting, and are your shoulders tensing, are your head and neck pulling backwards when you breathe in? Has your tongue gone back to the roof of the mouth once your consciousness is diverted elsewhere? Release it if it has, come back to the chest and rib cage. Think of the rib cage expanding and contracting like a bellows, like a dog lying by the fire. See the dog’s rib cage moving naturally, expanding and contracting. Feel your own doing the same. Think of your shoulders dropping away from your ears. Release your tongue again.
Relax Any Tension in Your Stomach
Bring your consciousness down further and notice if there is tension in the stomach. Release it if there is. If you are sitting, think of your sitting bones releasing away from your head into whatever you are seated on. If you are standing, think of your feet releasing into the ground, your heels very supportive, your toes lengthening along the floor in front of you. Breathe again.
Lengthen Your Spine
Now think of your spine softly lengthening up into your head, without any tension at all. Try not to ‘do’ anything, just let your thoughts effect any change in the muscles and balance.
In Alexander Technique terms, all these thoughts are your ‘directions’. They are simple messages from your brain to your muscles. The muscles know how to help you. Just direct, and stop, and breathe.
Now congratulate yourself on taking these few moments just for you. Well done!