Breathing is the beginning of all movement; but as our movement potential becomes more complex, we forget that breath can be a source of support, initiation, and connection. For a function that is so important to life, breath is often overlooked as a solution to our problems.
Not only can it provide oxygen-rich nourishment for the cells, but it can connect the upper and lower parts of the body. The diaphragm actually connects far down in the pelvic basin, and its muscular fibers intertwine with those of the psoas (which connects the legs to the spine). Each breath creates communication between the upper and lower body through this relationship. However, when the abdominal muscles are held, it not only cuts off the efficiency of the breath, but can deaden the communication to the lower body (Hackney, 2002).
Breath can also be a source of initiation. Whether feeling stuck or wanting to sustain movement, breath can provide support. Hackney comments that “flow is key to mobility, and breath creates flow in your body” (54). That flow can help release muscle tension and engage movement. Even when the tension we feel is emotional, those feelings manifest in physical ways. Allowing ourselves a moment to relax, intentionally breath, and refocus can be enough to initiate change.
Purposeful breathing can also help sustain our movements once in motion. Try exhaling when the body is contracting and inhaling when the body is expanding and see how it supports your movement. Then explore the opposite.
Finally, breath allows us to relate. Not only does the awareness of our breath make us more connected to ourselves, but it also offers a rhythm to connect with our environment and those in it. Hackney writes that “attuning to another’s breath pattern is one of the best ways to connect, whether that connection is in conversation or in a movement event such as playing tennis, dancing, or making-love” (55). This experience can be quite profound. Most of the time we do this instinctively, but choosing to attune in this way may deepen a connection or help us find empathy.
Breath offers a physical, emotional, and relational solution for our lives. While it may be an automatic response, bringing awareness to our breath can provide the answers we are seeking.
Hackney, P. (2002). Making connections: Total body integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals. (1st ed.). New York: Routledge.
Bartenieff, I. & Lewis, D. (1993). Body movement: Coping with the environment. (7th ed.). Langhorne, PA: Gordon & Breach.