Feelings or emotions like fear, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, doubt, and so on, are very powerful forces. When left to run wild, they can cause us to say or do things that we regret. And when held in or held back, they can fester as illness and disease. They can paralyze us or empower us. They can silence us or drive us to success.
Emotions are very healthy and natural energies. And like all energies, they are meant to flow. Feelings and emotions mean we are alive. They are not meant to be stopped, blocked, or suppressed. And they are not meant to be used as weapons to hurt ourselves or others. If we lash out or project our uncomfortable emotions, we can hurt others. If we stifle or suppress them, we can hurt ourselves. No wonder so many good people wrestle with their feelings.
Emotional energy is like a fire. Carefully tended, it can warm us and sustain us. Left uncontrolled, it can burn our house and our life down! No wonder so many good people struggle to express their feelings and emotions. No wonder so many people simply bottle them up.
At the seminars lately, we have been developing our natural ability to breathe into our feelings and to channel our emotions through the breath. It is amazing what happens when we learn to use the breath to meet and greet whatever feelings and emotions arise in us. We find that behind, under, or within all emotions is pure life force energy, and we can learn to integrate or channel this energy in very powerful, positive and productive ways.
Channeling these powerful energies is a skill that takes practice. But it is one that is worth mastering, because these powerful energies can serve us and the world to no end.
The breathing mantra we use in this practice of channeling, integrating, or transforming emotional energy is: “open and expand” (that’s the inhale), and relax and let go (that’s the exhale). And as it turns out, this is basically a conscious and deliberate sigh of relief. The sigh of relief (also called a cleansing breath is a core technique in Breathwork. It is a secret to accessing the natural healing and creative power of our emotions. You can learn to use your breath in this way to creatively channel your emotions or to safely vent them.
The other core technique is “connected breathing,” also called “continuous” or “circular” breathing. Practicing these two core breathwork techniques will help you to root out and release unhealthy habits and patterns, and to free you from painful feelings and suppressed emotions.
Have you noticed the effect that powerful emotions have on the body? It tenses up. The throat closes as the neck, jaw, forehead, chest, abdomen and other muscles tend to contract or react. It is as if the body is trying to escape, avoid, or protect itself against its own emotions and feelings!
Our ancient ancestors must have learned that expressing powerful emotions can be very dangerous. It seems that we have developed an unconscious habit or pattern, or a tendency to suppress or contain them. When we become emotionally aroused, activated or upset, powerful chemicals are produced and released into the system. And it normally takes one to three minutes for these chemicals to run their course before we “come back to our senses” again.
And so, the game is to learn how to manage our ourselves or our emotions during those first few critical moments of activation. And that’s exactly where Breathwork comes in. When we learn to simply relax and feel our feelings, when we learn breathe into our feelings and to channel our emotions into the breath, we get free of them, we take the stress of the body-mind system.
Can overcoming, integrating or navigating powerful uncontrollable emotions be that easy? Can it be that simple? Well, the answer is yes! It is a skill, and it simply takes practice.
And of course, how we frame things is also very important. For example it is useful to understand that anxiety is really ‘excitement’. And a better word for stress is ‘challenge’. Looking at it in this way allows us to approach things differently, and this reframing can open doors to more creative solutions. The lesson here is to practice these two core techniques when powerful feelings and emotions arise. And of course, it pays to practice when you feel peaceful and calm. It’s like practicing floating or swimming in the shallow end of the pool before diving into the ocean.
There is a certain kind of freedom that comes with the ability to breathe into our feelings and channel emotions into the breath. Life is so much more fun and enjoyable when we are not pushed and pulled or paralyzed by fear and anger, or sadness or doubt. A certain ease and grace flow into our lives when we can open and expand and to relax and let go instead of tightening and contracting or automatically reacting when powerful life energies awaken in us.
You may be surprised at how little practice it takes to transform your stress and anxiety into freedom and ease. And so, I suggest you practice.
Give yourself an expansive inhale and a relaxed exhale right now. Do it a few times and notice how quickly this can activate feelings and sensations in your body. Practice breathing and relaxing into these feelings and sensations.
Practice whenever you find yourself getting pushed or pulled off balance emotionally or psychologically.
Master the two core breathwork techniques and use them to overcome negative, dysfunctional or self-sabotaging habits and patterns and reactions. Practice with positive feelings as well as negative ones, little ones as well as big ones, because they all contain energy that can be used to uplift, strengthen, soothe, balance, energize or renew yourself. With practice, you can lift yourself up or calm yourself down. You can use the breath to remain clear and loving, peaceful and creative, even in the most exciting and challenging moments of your life!