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Are You Breathing?

Posted Jan 10 2013 10:44am

I’m sure your first response that question is, “Of course! Aren’t we all?”

The truth is the answer to that question can actually be yes and no.

When I was first introduced to the concept of breathing as a form of stress reduction and pain relief, I really thought I was breathing. And though I understood what that meant on an intellectual level, on a physical and emotional level, I just didn’t get it.

I am a high-energy, creative person whose mind is always full of ideas and my body likes to be in motion. So I would do short meditations and take some deep breaths here and there. I thought I was meeting the” requirement” for creating a healthy mind-body practice, but it turned out I was wrong.

And I say “wrong” very lightly since there’s not any right way to do it; it’s just that I wasn’t allowing my mind and body to get the full benefits of breathing. It wasn’t until I was feeling physical pain that I realized that breathing is one of the best ways you can help yourself in the healing process.

When I began on my breathing journey, I knew I needed to do it my way. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate and use tools I had learned, but I needed to put them together in a way that made sense to me and worked within a timeframe that felt good for me. When I allowed myself the freedom to do that, breathing became an easy and enjoyable part of my daily routine.

Understanding the importance of breath and why it’s so necessary when you are in physical pain or suffering from anxiety is key in developing a desire to start a breathing practice.

Why is breathing important? Scientific studies have shown that correct breathing can help manage stress and stress-related conditions by soothing the Autonomic Nervous Aystem. When we are stressed we tend to do shallow breathing as a typical stress response which deprives our body of a necessary function: our cells need oxygen and their waste product, carbon dioxide, needs to be expelled. Without it we are in a state of hyperventilation that can prolong anxiety and stress.

When I realized how little air I was taking in it gave me a greater awareness of my body as a whole.

When you are “breathing small”, everything feels very big. Even the most basic life events can be stressful.

When you learn to “breathe big”, you actually live your life with less of a focus on pain and fear. And that makes it easier to really experience life and go towards your goals regardless of what’s happening mentally or physically.

But to get to that place, you have to start with awareness. It can be challenging at first because we think we are aware. However, when you cultivate true awareness of how your body is functioning and the role of your mind, it becomes easier to go from breathing a little and meeting the basic requirements of living to breathing fully and creating what you really want.


Laura Tirello is an Endorsed Mind-Body Coach and a Martha Beck Certified Coach who educates and supports people who suffer from IBS and other digestive disorders by providing them with stress reduction techniques and coping strategies to help them enhance their quality of life.

Having suffered from IBS, she understands the emotional and physical impact that IBS presents in daily life. She enjoys helping people discover their own path to pain relief and create more freedom in their lives. Learn more about Laura at

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