Most of us aren’t raised to think about our breathing. We assume breathing just comes naturally. Some cultures and religions along with scientific studies, however, show us the significant benefits of bringing awareness to your breath.
In every women’s equine retreat I lead, I remind my clients to breathe. I do this repeatedly, and intentionally. Yes, they are already breathing, but often their breath is short because they’re stuck in their heads—overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions. Their bodies are tight and tense and they’re not taking deep, full breaths. I ask them to breathe and allow their breath to connect them to their bodies. When they give a long, slow exhale, I invite them to give their body permission to relax, let their shoulders drop, and feel the earth beneath their boots.
When we take short breaths, we tend to be disconnected from our physical sensations and stuck in our head—overthinking, uptight, and stressed. This physical and mental tightness wreaks havoc on our bodies and our lives, making us sick, unhappy, and anxious.
Getting out of your head and into your body allows you to become more present. Equine Gestalt Coaching shows us how to be present in our breath through horses. Horses live completely in the present. They’re not depressed about what happened in the past or anxious about what could happen in the next five minutes. They are fully present in all of the sensations and solidity of now. When we emulate them and become present through focus on our breath, we bring our awareness to the moment. We let go of worries and anxiety. We become fully present.
“Change your breathing, change your life.” – Author Unknown
Being present is particularly important when you’re working with a 1,200-pound animal. At my Unbridled Retreats when clients are connecting one-on-one with horses, I remind them to breathe into their emotions. When we deny our emotions, we create physical symptoms in our body. Emotions are energy and that energy has to go somewhere. If we suppress our emotions, that withheld emotional energy will manifest and can disrupt our well-being later in life.
Firsthand experience is how I learned this. In the past when I would have a feeling of anger, upset or unhappiness, grief, or sadness, (any emotion that wasn’t happy or upbeat), I would suppress and deny these “negative” emotions. I definitely did not breathe into them. I didn’t acknowledge them. I didn’t give them air. I didn’t release them. I didn’t know how. All of those emotions were trapped in my body and manifested as an eating disorder which allowed me to maintain the illusion of control. This is how I was able to hide my emotions in a very unhealthy way for a period of years. My suppressed emotions did explode later on, and my mental health was deeply affected.
When I learned to breathe, plant my feet on the ground, take deep breaths with long exhalations through my mouth, my body started to release and soften, and I was finally able to process my emotions and let go. This is the action and the outcome I share with my clients to anchor them in the moment. When they breathe into their sadness, their sorrow, their fear, their disappointment, their joy, their happiness, it honors the emotions and allows their energy to be processed and to cycle through their body.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Validating our emotions through breathing into them allows us to process and release those emotions.
Breathing is especially important when you’re riding a horse. As a prey animal, a horse can immediately sense if you’re not breathing. If you’re feeling fear, you get tense, your body tightens and the horse feels that from the saddle. Often when you get tense and tighten up, the horses get tight and tense—the horse is directly responding to your energy. When you breathe deeply and consciously your fear is deactivated and the horse responds to that relaxation.
“Fear is excitement without the breath.” -Fritz Perls
At my Unbridled Retreats, I constantly remind clients to smile and breathe. The moment I speak those words, their bodies start to relax, a smile crosses their face, and they lighten up. When that change occurs, the horses visibly relax. It’s a chain reaction, a cause and effect. If you’re not breathing deeply and calmly, you’re tense. If you’re tight, the people (and horses) around you are going to feel it. Whether or not they consciously know what is taking place, you’re giving off an energy, an aura, a vibration which others can sense. When you’re breathing and you’re in the moment, you are calm, inviting, and open to people and horses you interact with.
I love telling my clients to make sounds when we’re present in our breathing and living in the moment. When you’re making sounds your mouth is open and you’re not constricting your breathing. At some Unbridled Retreats, clients have the opportunity to round up cattle. Always, during the first round, the women are quiet, and the cattle don’t respond and move to where they are being led. Before round two I yell out, “Open your mouth, gimmee a yeeehaaaw and keep doing it!” The women follow my lead, whooping and hollering, and sure enough, the cattle move immediately, responding to the sound of the rider’s emotional release.
Where in your life can you practice taking deeper breaths and releasing energy?
I’d love to hear….share in the comments below!
Breathe with me. Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, exhale, 1, 2 ,3 ,4, 5,