breathe in – breathe out

January 15, 2013Karen Courcy

One of the biggest and most helpful thing that I have learned in therapy is how important breathing is.

I think we take breathing for granted because it’s an automatic action that our body takes, and we don’t realize what we are doing with that.

I have learned over the years with the help of my therapist how to breathe, how to relax the belly and tongue, how to use that as a tool to help talk through tough things that sit inside covered by anxiety or fear.

I have this painful habit of holding my breath through anger, stress, emotions, anxiety, or fear. I will have my shoulders up to my ears, breath held in, and body extremely tense! I didn’t realize how often I did this, or how bad it was until my therapist made me see it, and helped me through that.

There were times I would come home from session with the back of my legs killing me from holding them in so tight because that is how I protect myself from all the emotions inside. I literally would get up the next morning not being able to walk because my muscles were so sore from holding myself in so tight when working through hard emotions, or holding in the fear of talking.

Today (although at times I do find myself breaking into old habits) I am better at knowing when to breathe, knowing when to stop and check in with myself, and allow space to be there for whatever it is inside. Sometimes not as successful because it’s something I have always done.

When I used to do body building with weights at the gym, one of the major rules of lifting weights was “FORM”. My personal trainer taught me how to have perfect form when lifting weights, because if you didn’t have the form, you were not going to gain the muscle. He wouldn’t let me lift the weights until I got my forn down – It was that crucial. Having perfect form became a part of my routine while lifting weights, and I noticed a huge difference in my body.

Breathing in therapy and outside of therapy is a lot like having good form in weight lifting. If I hold my breath, and tense up, I am putting stress on my body and heart, I am putting anxiety inside – instead of letting it out.

One of my favorite things that my therapist tells me when I am really struggling with hard emotions or thoughts, he says to me “breathe in, breathe out, soft tongue, soft belly, now.. think about something that makes your heart smile“. and it works EVERY-TIME!

It’s not easy to remember this all the time, especially in harder moments. I fall short of this many times while sitting in therapy and my my therapist will say to me “breathe, shoulders down” .. and I will notice just how much I am holding my breathe an how high my shoulders are as I drop them!

I think that breathing is a crucial part of our every day life. Yes we all breathe of course to stay alive, but what we do with that breath is SO important. I am still learning how to do it, and each time I am realizing just how important it is.

I plan to run the Susan Kolman Breast Cancer 5K race again this year in Atlanta in May, and one of the things that is crucial in running is “breathing”!

When I ran my first 5K about 2 years ago, I struggled to finish the race not because my muscles and legs were tired, but because I was out of breath due to not breathing right. I was breathing in too heavy at the beginning of the race, and my lungs were on fire because it was cold out that morning! I did finish the race, but because I didn’t breath properly during the whole entire run, it caused all my muscles to ache the next day, they didn’t get enough oxygen!

This time around I will have the fundamentals of breathing, and not just breathing in and out, but where to take that breath in, and how to let it out!

The past couple of weeks I have done some hard work and breathing has been helpful to remember, and today while working with that, I thought I would share this with all of you, because it is important to know, and do.

Your body will feel less tense, and you will be amazed at what you can tap into once you learn to push aside the stress, fear and anxiety underneath what is there.

SO take a deep breathe and relax tonight … and while doing that, think about something that makes your heart smile.


  • Gel

    January 15, 2013 at 11:54 PM

    That’s a great photo of you on the right. The new haircut really does suit you.

    I have just been more aware of my lack of breathing too. I like what you have to say about breathing.

    I just remembered something an older Japanese teacher said about breathing. He said it is more important to breathe out than to be concerned about breathing in. Because when you fully breathe out, your body naturally wants to inhale fully. He said it was also a metaphor for life….it being more important to give than to receive. Like the prayer of St. Francis…..That actually when we concern ourselves with giving, (rather than getting), then we create space and will be provided for.


    1. Karen Courcy

      January 16, 2013 at 12:15 AM

      Gel – OH I love that metaphor … WOW! I am going to share this with my therapist tomorrow! and it’s true very true!

      thank you for your nice compliment

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