Breath and Body
by Daria Halprin
Breath and body are inextricably linked. In everything we do, sense, feel, think, breath is there, sometimes as an active partner and sometimes as a silent one. We are involved in a constant breathing dance, whether we know it or not. Making the breath/ body partnership conscious changes our very state of being. Breath sensation opens a wider awareness of every part of the body, and expands the sense/perception experience of the whole body. This is elementary to the experience of grounding in the body.
In addition to being the essential force which sustains life, breath is central to the healthy functioning of our body/mind. Breathing relaxes muscles, stimulates brain function through oxygenation, boosts lymphatic stimulation, increases blood flow and feeds the neuro- pathways. The oscillation effect of breathing creates ripple effect movements in key body parts, most notably ribcage but as importantly, all along the spine, which connects with all the other major body parts. It plays a significant role in our ability to vocalize, to move with flow, ease and tone.
Breath and breathing patterns have a profound impact on physiological function, mental states and on issues related to emotional containment and expression. In studio practice, we begin by tuning, from the ground up; entering the physical body, awakening the here and now experience of each part of the body, sensitizing to feelings, opening to images and narrative. The stabilizing baseline of breath established a point of return and pause to accompany the potent emotional and imaginal opening.
Breath sets up internal cues and adaptive responses, allowing us to shift out of cultural and habitual patterns and defenses. It is our breathing that creates a natural self-regulatory motion. Breathing, along with heartbeat and pulse, are the main dances we live by. No surprise then that breath and movement, breath and meditation, breath and higher states of consciousness have been linked in our collective wisdom throughout all cultures and times.
When we are connected with the actual sense experience of our breath, we become more aware of all our bodily sensations, and with the qualities and possibilities inherent in each movement. Breath softens our body armor, giving us access to and more awareness of our feelings and mental states, releases tension. Breath keeps the doors and windows open so that things can move more easily in and out.
The capacity to stay somatically connected to our breath helps us develop the ability to ground emotion, thought and imagination in the here and now and let things shift and change. Our breath and the way it moves us is one of the best medicines we have for being with whatever is, for letting go and for opening up to new impressions. Breath, when connected to feeling, emotion, imagination and associative thinking, helps bridge body/ mind/spirit. Connecting with breath brings more awareness, more presence, more attention and more expression in the body. Every breath becomes a renewal, a chance to take in and let go, and a dance of new possibilities.