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I'm a Lot Happier When I Breathe
by Bret Lyon, PhD

What is your favorite place to be in the whole world? A place where you always feel peaceful and serene — or wildly joyful? Maybe it's somewhere in nature. By a running stream. Or in a forest. Or maybe it's a cozy room. Can you imagine you're there right now?

Now allow yourself to just breathe. Notice what you see in that special place. What do you see around you? What do you hear in that special place? What sensations are you feeling in your body? As you notice, keep breathing. Notice the breath going in and out as you sit in your special place, paying attention to the sensations in your body as you continue to be in that place. ...And you might want to notice how you're feeling right now.

When I do this little exercise, which I call a mini-vacation, I feel wonderful. The feeling lingers, and as I go through the rest of the day, I often notice that I feel happier, more able to deal with life's ups and downs. A full mini-vacation takes only five minutes and it can change your entire day. As you may suspect, it works even better when you close your eyes and really take your time.

The breath is an amazing resource. In a mini-vacation, we use our imagination as well as the breath, but just breathing, fully and freely, can lead to amazing results all by itself. When we're stressed or upset, we inhibit our breathing, which does cut us off from unpleasant feelings. Unfortunately, when we shut down breathing, we shut down ALL feelings including joy and happiness.

A baby breathes fully and freely, using her entire body. As she breathes, energy flows through her, without anything getting in the way. And wherever the energy flows, she can feel pleasure. Most adults, however, do not breathe like a baby. Our breathing is often short and shallow, not visible at all. And our muscles are tense.

This is how I used to breathe for much of my life. And with limited breathing came bouts of low-key depression. I felt cut-off from and isolated from other people — not really enjoying life.

Then I discovered Reichian Breathwork. By the end of the first session, I was hooked. I had breathed into feelings I hadn't allowed myself to feel for a long time. And by the end I felt wonderful. A lovely sense of energy flow filled my body. My mind stopped. I was not thinking, worrying or planning. I felt a sense of peace, calm and joy I had never felt before. Rather than trying to shut down unpleasant feelings, I had been helped to breathe through them to reach the basic pleasure and joy underneath. At that moment, lying there with that great happiness filling me — a happiness I had always longed for but rarely experienced, I knew I would be teaching breathwork.

For the last 25 years I have been conducting seminars and individual sessions in opening the breath. And I am still amazed at how much pleasure, satisfaction and happiness and growth this work brings my students. It seems so simple and basic, how can it possibly have such a great effect? But it does. For myself, I am still learning, grateful that I can help others experience the joy in every breath.


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