Can we talk about how Breathwork helped me overcome a few challenges? After I recovered from a knee injury that kept me on bedrest for months, followed by many more months of recovery, I struggled with a serious fear of getting hurt again.
It actually started before I was fully walking again. My PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, would wake me up in the middle of the night after I dreamt of falling and getting hurt. I had always been pretty adept at experiencing fear, but not letting that fear hold me back… but this fear was different. It was so deep rooted and in ways, debilitating.
I had been a runner my whole life. I used to go run laps in the park for fun, and joined Cross Country, as soon as I was old enough. I wasn’t the fastest or going to set any records, but it was always something that brought me a lot of joy. I could put in headphones, smell the fresh air, feel the wind brushing against me and RUN.
No rules to follow, I just let my body guide me. Sometimes I would stop and lay staring at the clouds, other times I would take a break and swing at the playground before continuing my run. It was my stress reliever, and time for myself without any distractions.
That is why it was so devastating when my doctor told me I should not run anymore. That’s what worked for me, it was all I knew!
Now I was stuck with this deep fear of getting hurt again, and the only way I knew how to move my body and destress was 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 destress. My anxiety wasn’t allowing me to try new things though, so I needed to reconnect to my body before I could start moving it.
How Breathwork Helped Me Find and Connect with my Plus Size Body Again
Breathwork. That was the first step. I know we have all been breathing since we were born, so I was skeptical that “breathwork” could be so impactful, and even more skeptical that it could match the feeling that running gave me.
Breathwork is a breathing technique where you intentionally change your breathing pattern in order to breathe in a very conscious way.
When you slow your breathing to a deep, purposeful breathe, it allows your brain to relax, letting it know you are safe, which allows for the nervous system to calm, as well.
Types of Breathwork:
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Switching between your thumb and index finger, apply pressure to your right nostril and left, systematically inhaling through one and exhaling through the other one.
Count while you breath… Breathe in 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, and exhale for eight counts. This allows your lungs to fully empty, however it might take some practice.
Count while you breath… Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and then hold again for 4 counts.
Deep Abdominal Breathing
Visualize your breathing, filling up your body in a deep, long breathe. You should physically be able to see yourself breathe and you follow what feels comfortable to your body.
There are more types of breathing techniques, if you go to a professional that can aid in 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 personal favorite because I find it hard to relax if I’m trying to count and I’d much rather be “in my body” than “in my mind”. I also sometimes visualize myself “breathing through my back” because I hold a lot of my tension in my back.
Throughout my practice of breathwork, I have been able to calm my nervous system, reduce my stress and allow myself to move past moments of PTSD quickly, drastically minimizing the frequency of them, as well. If I find myself in a moment where my mind is picturing myself falling or getting hurt, I try to take deep abdominal breaths until it passes.
I have noticed that the more I practice this, the more quickly I can get to the point of relaxation while breathing. I try to start and end every day laying in bed breathing for at least 5-15 minutes, so I am able to begin and end my day peacefully.
As always, trust your own body. What works for one person might not work for another, and ultimately you need to discover what is right for you.
Now that I have a handle on my trauma and have reconnected with my body, I am ready to find new ways that I can move, that brings me the joy and self-care that running used to give me!