By Katie Staab
I opened my eyes, disoriented in the snowy January twilight, and immediately knew I needed to focus on my breath. I was just coming to after losing control of my car on an icy road, resulting in a collision that sent my car careening into the ditch. In the hours to come, I’d learn that my four rib fractures had punctured my right lung, filling my chest cavity with fluid and collapsing my lung. Yet, even without the medical explanations, I knew in that initial moment of consciousness that I needed to breathe.
Since my accident, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about breathing. Deep breathing is important to the physical healing of my lung, but I’m also learning its place in the emotional, mental and spiritual process of healing. In yoga, prana is a sanskrit word for breath, but more importantly, it implies our life force. If we choose to think about our breath being a force that carries with it our life and what we go through, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Here are three lessons I’ve learned about breathing through my recovery:
Breathing creates pause, helping us create space for healing in our bodies, minds and busy lives. There’s a reason that we take a deep breath when we need to pause. It’s a physical way of pulling the reins on ourselves when our thoughts or emotions threaten to run out of control. Likewise, healing (physical, emotional or otherwise) requires us to pause our busy lives — slow down, rest, reflect. Deep breathing helps remove the pressure of our hurried lives, reminding us that this pause isn’t an inconvenience to be rushed through, but a rich, revitalizing season of life.
Breathing is a process of renewal in itself. With each inhale, life-giving oxygen spreads throughout our bodies. With each exhale, our bodies rid themselves of carbon dioxide and our lungs empty, creating space for another breath. This process happens all day and all night, typically without notice, yet it is an amazing metaphor for taking in the new and purging the old — for embracing renewal and releasing pain. Deep breathing is a way of focusing on the present and experiencing our own life force.
Breathing connects us to the basic mechanics of our existence. We cannot survive without our breath. The action of rolling our shoulders back and expanding our lungs is an empowering and life-affirming posture. Focusing on deep breathing inspires gratitude for each breath — each day we have the privilege to live — and this gratitude is what helps us find the strength we need to heal.
To learn more about developing a breathing practice, check out Yoga Journal‘s resources on pranayama (breathing exercises). Often, I’ll use aromatherapy to help me focus during my breathing exercises. Below is a recipe for a “Back in the Saddle” blend for emotional support that Charlynn Avery, Aura Cacia aromatherapist and educator and my friend, created for me to help with my recovery.
Back in the Saddle Blend for Emotional Support
2 drops geranium essential oil
2 drops jasmine essential oil
2 drops helichrysum essential oil
2 drops frankincense essential oil
4 drops sweet marjoram essential oil
4 drops lavender essential oil
6 drops bergamot essential oil
2 ounces water
Directions: Combine essential oils and water in a mister bottle. Spray when needed, inhale deeply and exhale slowly.
I’d love to hear about your experience. What has deep breathing taught you about the healing process?
About the author: Katie is a content management specialist for Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia, spending her days bringing to life articles, recipes, images and other information about natural living. When she isn’t salivating over new recipes or discovering her latest essential oil obsession, Katie loves to run, practice yoga, read multiple books at once, and experiment in the kitchen.