Can we talk about how Breathwork helped me overcome some challenges? After recovering from a knee injury that kept me bedridden for months, followed by several months of recovery, I struggled with a severe fear of re-injuring myself.
In fact, it started before I fully walked again. My PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, was waking me up in the middle of the night after dreaming about falling and hurting myself. I had always been pretty good at feeling fear, but I didn’t let that fear hold me back… but that fear was different. It was so deeply rooted and, in some ways, debilitating.
I have been a runner all my life. I used to go running laps in the park for fun and joined cross-country as soon as I was old enough. I wasn’t the fastest and I wasn’t going to set a record, but it was still something that brought me a lot of joy. I could put on headphones, feel the fresh air, feel the wind brushing past me, and RUN.
No rules to follow, I just let my body guide me. Sometimes I would stop and stay to watch the clouds, other times I would pause and swing around the playground before continuing my run. It was my stress reliever and me time without any distractions.
That’s why it was so devastating when my doctor told me I shouldn’t run anymore. That’s what worked for me, that was all I knew!
Now I was stuck with this deep fear of being hurt again, and the only way I knew to move my body and de-stress was being taken away from me.
In addition to mental therapy, I still needed a way to move my body that brought me joy and find a way to de-stress. My anxiety wouldn’t allow me to try new things, so I needed to reconnect to my body before I could start moving it.
How Breathing Helped Me Find and Connect With My Plus Size Body Again
Breath work. It was the first step. I know we’ve all breathed since we were born, so I was skeptical that “breathwork” could have such an impact, and even more skeptical that it could match the feeling running gave me. .
Breath work is a breathing technique in which you intentionally change your breathing pattern in order to breathe very consciously.
When you slow your breathing down to a deep, purposeful breath, it allows your brain to relax, letting it know you’re safe, which also allows the nervous system to calm down.
Types of breathing:
Alternate nasal breathing
Alternating between thumb and index finger, apply pressure to your right and left nostril, consistently inhaling through one and exhaling through the other.
Count as you breathe… Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and exhale for 8 counts. This allows your lungs to completely empty, but it may take some practice.
Count as you breathe… Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, then hold again for 4 counts.
Deep abdominal breathing
Visualize your breath, filling your body in a long, deep breath. You need to be physically able to see yourself breathing and follow what is comfortable for your body.
There are other types of breathing techniques, if you consult a professional who can help you with the process. For all of these techniques, try to limit the amount of outside noise when practicing them, especially in the beginning.
Deep abdominal breathing is my favorite because I find it hard to relax if I try to count and I prefer to be “in my body” than “in my head”. I also sometimes visualize myself “breathing through my back” because I hold a lot of my tension in my back.
Throughout my breathing practice, I was able to calm my nervous system, reduce my stress, and allow myself to pass moments of PTSD quickly, also minimizing their frequency considerably. If I find myself in a moment where my mind is imagining itself falling or hurting myself, I try to take deep abdominal breaths until it passes.
I have noticed that the more I practice this, the faster I can reach the point of relaxation while breathing. I try to start and end each day lying in bed breathing for at least 5-15 minutes, so that I can start and end my day peacefully.
As always, trust your own body. What works for one person may not work for another, and ultimately you need to figure out what works for you.
Now that I have mastered my trauma and reconnected with my body, I am ready to find new ways to move, which brings me the joy and self-care that running used to give me!