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Pranayama and Emotional Healing

When challenges hit it is how we deal with them that defines our character. For the majority of us there are two channels through which we process difficult situations. One is that we react on impulse or feel a hit of feelings that drives our actions, the second approach is stuffing or distancing ourselves from the sensation by use of repression or evasion tactics. Sometimes we experience a combination of the two. Explosions of temper come in two forms: one is a go to response based on habit the other is a result of an overcrowded inner prison of housed stuffed emotions. The approach for both requires a similar measure of mindful attendance and is best corrected with the use of the breath.


For yogis, we have come to realize the power of the breath in terms of its obvious effect on the nervous system. The difference between an explosion of undisciplined regrettable action is common place when the sympathetic fear response takes hold or root. It is in the moment before the explosion that a delay occurs. Lack of breath in this space is the perfect compliment to the building nervous energy. If however, a breath can be taken and is done so with a measure of positive inner dialogue a momentary pass is given and in this moment a switch or derailment is possible. Here we can derail the though or action. Even if the energy is a speeding freight train headed for disaster it is in this moment through a mindful breath that the entire paradigm can shift within.


Breath and be present. Often times in a panic or stressful moment we are caught in a state of either the past or the present. Some replay the past trauma and are seduced into the memory of previous pain, here the mind fires flight chemicals in the brain and prepare the body for a defensive mechanism of either avoidance through running or fighting when it perceives there is no other choice. Perhaps the fight mechanism has been instilled in the person from youth and this response has been trained into the individual as a way to combat the emotional attack. For some in this category the physical arena is a safer place to fight than in the mind or heart. It is often seen in abused people that physical violence is more palatable than a emotional slight or insult. Regardless of which category a person may find themselves in, a measure of breath and a moment taken in stillness provides the space needed to shift the behavior or response to another. The more one cultivates this measure of breath and space in non action and mindful awareness the more time is given whereby a different method of dealing with the problem can be cultivated and executed.


On the entire other end of the spectrum, there are those who freeze when faced with extreme danger or fear. I myself have experienced being scared stiff and one thing that is often noticed upon greater reflection and after thought is that in this scenario no breath is present. Where as the fight personality often accelerates the breath pattern the fearful non doer may refrain from any breath at all and move towards avoidance and a catatonic expression. Here training to remind oneself to use the breath is a great tool. Take a breath and come to the present, feel the feelings and then make a move. The secret is to bring the body into mindful response with the breath and then to go to the next level and bring the emotions into this more present and grounded place. Here is where the true work begins.


The secret is to train with the breath daily. This will make it easier to go to this tool when the temperature rises and the heat is on. By regular training the ability to cope is fertilized and developed with greater power. So when the real problems surface in life we have been already diligently doing our training and preparation. This is not an instant cure and like meditation or any practice, mastery takes time. The great truth is that those who use the breath to counter responses and reactions to troubling catalysts will experience a decrease in the severity and frequency of the go to response or negative coping skill and with continued diligence it may one day be completely replaced with a more healthy and mindful response.


The great thing is that in whichever category one falls in, whether it is avoidance, stuffing, angry explosions, hysterical anxious panicked responses or self injury like drug abuse or eating disorders. These compulsions and negative responses can be shifted with the desire to change and then the breath as the tool to bring the much needed moment whereby the response can shift and change to a new modality.

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