Room To Breathe More

Self-love and self-kindness can help create a spacious, generous feeling in life – and room to breathe …more.

We’re closing out “Heart” month today with a focus on emotional health as it relates to the breath as well as shoulder, chest, and neck tension. This area is where the heart chakra is centralized.

Just to review, here are a few important thoughts regarding the heart chakra:

  • all chakras are associated with different elements. The heart chakra is associated with air, which is why breathwork is central to conversations about this chakra
  • the central emotional issues of this chakra have to do with love for self and others
  • When the heart chakra is “spinning” or healthy, one is naturally empathetic, compassionate and wise

Sometimes, life takes unexpected turns. Many of us have experienced this – especially in the last few years. When these turns involve stressful or even traumatic events and emotions, the body will often respond by protecting itself. This can look like shoulders held forward and high, close to the ears, or the midback rounded a bit – as if to protect the heart. For most people, this happens involuntarily and can result in shortened breath patterns and upper back, shoulder, chest, and neck tension.

This can feel like:

  • suddenly realizing that you cannot remember the last time you took a breath
  • feeling blocked from taking deep breaths by a tight neck or chest
  • holding so much tension in the neck and shoulders that you feel light-headed or your hands tingle
  • having strong emotions come up while stretching or moving the neck, chest, or shoulders

How to Create Room To Breathe More

When upper body tension is due to emotion or stress (rather than an injury or “mechanical” issue), here are a few approaches that can cultivate self-love and help create more room to breathe:

  1. Learn to set – and maintain – healthy boundaries. This one can be difficult – especially if the habit of not having healthy boundaries with yourself and others feels normal. Undefined boundaries with others can also be a huge source of stress. Healthy boundaries provide a sense of safety and empowerment both within and with others.
  2. Learn to let go of control.
    Things to be responsible for: personal decisions,behaviors, responses and choices
    Things to let go of: other people’s decisions, behaviors, responses, and choices
  3. Learn to use breathing as a coping skill. Sometimes, while stretching or moving your upper body, strong emotions or memories may come up. This is normal! Begin to see these events simply as waves that move through the body. Tightening up and resisting will essentially “hold” that energy in the body and create more tension.
    Try this instead: take the moment to acknowledge the emotion or memory, relaxing the jaw, neck and shoulders and focusing in on your breath. You can even envision the emotion as a balloon that you release with each exhale.
  4. Learn to let others help. As an individualistic culture, we tend towards attempting to DIY everything. While there are many free resources on the internet, sometimes letting someone else help can catalyze your healing – particularly someone who has spent time and resources to become an expert in the area. Quality mental health care, movement coaching, acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care can help address more than just physical aches and pains!

Self-love and emotional health often take a back seat when life is busy and stressful. Finding support in the journey is important for creating a life where there’s room to breathe more! If you reside in the Eugene, OR area, visit us at Well Balanced Integrated Care to find a group of clinicians committed to collaborating and seeing you flourish.

Here is a link to the first post in this series: Room to Breathe
Here is a breathing exercise we sometimes use with our clients. First Rib mobilization
Books about Boundaries that we recommend: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Book of Boundaries by Melissa Urban, How To Do The Work by Nicole Lepera