Breathing Your Way to Better Boundaries

Click on the image above to view this weeks video!

Today’s post is about how breathing animates boundaries. A living, breathing boundary is much more powerful than a hard, lifeless one. For inspiration, imagine the incredibly soft tissue of your lungs, how they fill and empty three dimensionally. (If you are willing to view lung tissue that was recently alive being breathed by a pump, check out this incredible video by Gil Hedley.)

The sensation of breathing itself can be the best anchor for receiving others more deeply without losing yourself. That’s partly because the sensation from lung movement stimulates your vagus nerve, which re-balances calm and excitation as needed.

Breathing responds to our thoughts and emotions instantly. So if you want to stay with your own feelings, even unpleasant ones, stay with your breathing. One particular emotion I’ve been curious about is defensiveness. When other people are upset or charged, I’m extremely sensitive and can take that energy in and make it personal – about me. I’ve got to protect that “me.”

“They must think I’m an idiot to talk to me that way!” My body jumps to conclusions like that way before my brain can intervene. Then, to protect myself, I’ll smile, and hold my breath a little…meanwhile, the other person doesn’t don’t have a clue.

That’s a boundary alright. With me trapped inside, quietly trying to control everything. With my breathing. So human! Just to be aware of this is a gift.

We need to defend ourselves sometimes – that’s reality. And our body will try to protect us even when it’s not actually necessary. So how can we work with that? What kind of support do we need?

My first Alexander Technique experiences were mysteriously instrumental in building my ability to construct healthy, more buoyant boundaries so that I could even experience this kind of self-inquiry. Elizabeth Buonomo, an Alexander Technique teacher and Psychotherapist, puts it this way:

“I have always appreciated the Alexander work for its inherent non-invasiveness; if I am teaching well, I will be listening carefully with my hands so as not to push my student beyond where he is able to go.
I will be facilitating the student’s muscle release in a way that respects their timing and ability. The student and I will observe that which is not yet ready to change and we will together appreciate that boundary.”

A “listening” contact implies a two way flow of information. That means that the boundary is sensate and porous. There is a soft quality to the touch, and a receptivity perceived by both parties. There is no pushing, no forcing.

The deep, internal movement of breathing can be felt on the surface of ones skin with this kind of accepting touch – much like the movement of waves under a boat on the water. This movement is the most important and deeply personal things that is witnessed through a non-invasive touch.

It is so life affirming to simply witness that subtle motion of breathing through surface contact. You’ve absolutely got to try it for yourself! You can use contact with any support, especially full body contact on the ground, to begin.

I really enjoyed making this weeks video on breathing boundaries. It combines several elements of my Awareness Preludes and Cranial Nerve Sequencing:

  • The awareness prelude for “down and up”, our ongoing and usually unconscious perception of the ground, and in relation to the ground, the sky.
  • The 1st cranial nerve (olfactory) which is responsible for smell, which requires breathing.
  • The 10th cranial nerve (vagus) which helps us feel lung and airway movement, which expresses itself, like all our movements, in relationship to gravity (so beautifully visible in the Gil Hedley video.)

It’s a taste of what you will experience in my upcoming BETTER BOUNDARIES PILOT WORKSHOP on Monday, July 25th, from 2 – 4 pm.

In this workshop, we will practice allowing time for a full out-breath before you speak while in conversation. In preparation, you will need time yourself, to quietly feel your own body rising and falling with your breath without speaking or having to attend to others. Time for yourself.

Rooted and receptive like that, it is much easier to witness another person and feel your own body at the same time, without having to analyze or respond to what they are saying.

In my experience, we all need permission to take that time, and to give that time to others. Ah – a breathing boundary!

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