Breathe

If you put one hand on your stomach and another on your chest and breathe, which hand moves? asks the doctor. I hadn’t prepared for a quiz, move my hands to stomach and chest respectively, try to remember how I breathe. I hazard: both?

He asks, do you sigh a lot? – yes, I say, I do, I think. I wonder what ‘a lot’ is, what the average daily quota of sighs is and how I can know for sure.

How about yawning? – I don’t know, I say – but yes, I think I do. And I stifle a yawn, summoned by its mention.

He explains: your chest shouldn’t move when you breathe. You’re breathing too shallowly. Your body is trying to get more oxygen. I nod, think of those click bait articles: ‘You’ve been breathing wrong this whole time.’

I focus. I am breathing inandout and inandout. Just enough to get by, get on, get through. I slow it down. I straighten my back. I fill my lungs. In and out. In and out and in and out and in

When did I forget how to breathe? It seems like the simplest thing, but maybe I’ve lost the knack. Like handstands – so easy and thoughtless in childhood, just another way to move. I wouldn’t risk them now.

I imagine a bird inside my rib cage, the part of me that flutters and beats its small wings in panic. I think of canaries in coal mines. It would be dark there, and hot, as they struggled for breath, as the air ran out. Small limp bodies, impossibly light. Would they revive, if their cage was carried out to daylight and breeze? Would small eyes reopen?

I breathe.

In

Out

Open the cage. Let the sunshine in.

12 thoughts on “Breathe

    1. Thank you so much, it’s lovely of you to comment. I think I have been feeling on the edge of flight or freeze quite a lot and a focus on breathing might help. As long as I don’t spend the time overanalysing breathing too much!

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      1. One of my friends suggested, instead of meditation, just acting as normal but slowing everything down enormously – so if drinking a cup of tea, lifting the cup slowly, sipping slowly, putting it down… also slowly and deliberately. No idea if it’ll work for me but going to give it a shot!

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  1. I love the blog, and the subject of breathing properly is so important – especially when we forget for either physical or mental health reasons, or both. Your words about it are so beautifully written. The bird …just gorgeous! 😊
    One thing that’s helped me is an app called Insighe Timer that I now use every day. There are so many ways to help breathing on this app – perhaps it may be of interest to you? Thanks for a stunning blog. x

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    1. Thank you so much – both for the lovely words on my blog and for the app suggestion. I will check that out! Anxiety always feels like a bird to me but it’s the first time I have tried to put it into words.
      Just noticed it’s not yet 7am… one shorebird shift and apparently now I am a morning person! X

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    2. Thank you so much – for the lovely words on the blog and for the app suggestion. I shall check it out. Anxiety has always felt like a bird to me but it’s the first time I’ve tried to put it into words. Xx

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  2. Oh Ceris, this is so prettily perfect. You express the sensation of anxiety so well, I got a bit teary. I read it to son, who also suffers breathlessness in anxiety occasionally. I found that years of holding my tummy in to pretend I was thin had a dramatic effect on my breathing, too. It meant I COULD only use my chest and was breathing too shallowly all the time. I love to occasionally just stop and take deep breaths in and out, lower my shoulders and thrust out my belly like a toddler. Loosen everything up. Love to you xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. As you know, it means a very great deal that you read and like my blog! It is just exactly how it feels to me – like there’s a bird there, sometimes flapping, sometimes laying low. I want to become better at breathing. I think it probably goes along with being better at being in the moment – which sometimes I am good at and sometimes not! I will breathe like you say and love it. Love you xxx

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