Do we do it? Do we really take the time to breathe?
From my experience as a voice teacher, I would say we neglect this very basic practice. Yes, we breathe 24/7 as a necessary part of life but, when it comes to really relaxing and breathing deeply (with our diaphragm), most of us fall short. However, it is a singer’s best habit that can be learned and perfected. My students begin their vocal training with breathing exercises before we do anything else.
Now, I can tell you that some of my voice and public speaking students have great exercise routines. Their abdominal muscles mirror that of a competitive athlete! I must consider each student’s “instrument” from Day One of their vocal training, and man, some of those abs are tight. My instruction to them is that there must be a relaxation of their core for that first diaphragmatic breath to take place. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not how they were trained to breathe. It’s opposite of the “sucking-in” movement that they engage in all day. But it is necessary for them to learn to breathe correctly—to expand and exhale if they want to support and grow their vocal instrument for a lifetime. Vocalists, public speakers, and anyone who uses their voice regularly as a means of communication in public must learn to breathe.
What does breathing have to do with ordinary, everyday life? Everything! You need to learn to breathe deeply to handle life. Stuff happens! If you take a yoga class, you are instructed to take deep breaths. If you are fortunate enough to enjoy a massage, the masseuse will encourage you to relax and breathe. Your medical professional will even ask you to take a deep breath as your vitals are taken or when you are examined. Breathing isn’t foreign to any of us…but deep breaths—the kind that sustain us—well, those breaths must be learned and practiced.
“…to pause and rest before continuing”
It is not just the inhaling, but it is the inhaling deeply and exhaling that makes us pause and rest. This requires you to actually let yourself take the time to do it. It’s not our natural inclination. It is very hard to take a deep breath while you are stressed or running around. In order to “get a grip” sometimes, it takes all these actions: pause, inhale deeply, exhale completely, rest, and then continue.
We are not so good at this as a habit. Most of us have to be told “to pause and rest before continuing.” To breathe deeply takes time. We want to rush through the motion to get to whatever we were just about to do! It takes about five seconds to take in a very deep, intentional breath. This kind of breathing needs time, and it requires space in our routine.
You cannot hold your breath and wait to exhale only when some horrible thing happens. You need to learn to inhale and exhale during everyday life to be prepared for whenever that horrible thing might occur or whatever that thing might prove to be. It takes time that most of us do not give to ourselves! I wish I had taken more time in the mornings when Robert was with us because I often wonder if the worst medically hard days would have seemed more bearable. I don’t know. I only wish I had known more about the need to breathe much earlier in my life, outside of the required breathing I learned for singing.
Now, I try to light a beautiful candle every day to remind myself to breathe. It is a morning ritual I try not to sacrifice for anyone or anything. It is my commitment to myself to start the day with a routine that nourishes my soul. (This time usually includes my morning devotional, my In Our Arms Blog Spotify playlist, a small orchid plant, and definitely a cup of coffee!) I breathe in a beautiful fragrance in that sacred time before my day gets started. When I do get busy and forgo this morning time of respite, I feel as if I have cheated myself for the rest of the day. I do not want to do that to myself! I also give special candles as gifts because I know they can bring joy in a friend’s demanding life, and it may remind them to stop and breathe in a little of a beautiful fragrance. I might have to start packing travel candles with me for my hotel stays. (Traveling “Bucket List” candles!)
I want us all to learn to breathe. I want those of us on this journey to give ourselves permission “to pause and rest before continuing.” I want us to value ourselves enough that this simple, five-second act of self-care becomes routine. It is crucial that we learn how to breathe.
Do you pause? Do you take a moment? Is your life packed with the care of everyone else so that you forget about yourself and forget to breathe? My own story is that I am fortunate to take deep, diaphragmatic breaths every day with my students. When I am joyfully teaching, or reluctantly exercising (I am getting better.), I must breathe deeply with my students or encourage myself to take the time in the middle of exercising.
You may already know all about this “breathing talk.” You may already take daily deep breaths. If you do not do it currently, I challenge you to start today! Do it for yourself and those around you who need you to be strong and “to pause and rest before continuing.” I promise you it can make a difference in how you walk on your journey. Light a candle…pause, inhale deeply, exhale completely, rest, and then continue. Breathe.
Listening Library: Breathe (Maverick City ft. Jonathan McReynolds)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV)
This goes out to the worried This goes out to the stressed Sorting out a million thoughts running through your head To everyone that's waiting For better days ahead Tired, and frustrated, and leaving words unsaid Please don't hold your breath Just breathe 'Cause it's a miracle we can breathe There's power in the way that we breathe Release your heavy burdens and let everything that has breath praise the Lord This is why we have breath, to praise the Lord (Praise, praise, praise) Sometimes you're in the desert Sometimes you feel the pain Sometime He calms the storms and sometimes He lets it rain Please don't hold your breath
Just breathe (It's a miracle) 'Cause it's a miracle we can breathe (Come on) (Release the breath of God) There's power in the way that we breathe ('Cause there's power, ooh) Release your heavy burdens (Come on) And let everything that has breath praise the Lord This is why we have breath, to praise the Lord (Come on, breathe) Just breathe ('Cause it's a miracle) It's a miracle we can breathe (There's power in) There's power in the way that we breathe (Release your heavy burden) Release your heavy burden And let everything that has breath praise the Lord (This is why we have breath) This is why we have breath (To praise) To praise the Lord (Somebody praise the Lord)
Somebody praise the Lord Somebody praise the Lord Somebody praise the Lord Yeah, He's worthy (He's worthy) Of all the (Of honor) Of all the glory From every (Every) Body, just praise the Lord Oh, and I can feel my lungs taking air again It's breathing, I'm breathing in oxygen And I can feel my strength is coming back again Breathing, breathing in oxygen (Say, "I can feel my lungs, yeah") I can feel my lungs (Taking air again) taking air again (Breathing) Breathing, I'm breathing in oxygen (I can feel my strength) I can feel my strength is coming back again (Yeah, it's coming back again) (Breathing) Breathing (Hey), breathing in oxygen (One more time, say) (I can feel my lungs) I can feel my lungs (Taking air again) taking air again (Woah) Breathing, breathing in oxygen (Yeah, I can feel my strength) I can feel my strength (Coming back again) coming back again (Breathing) Breathing, I'm breathing in oxygen (And say, "I can feel my heart, I can feel my") I can feel my heart (There it goes again) There it goes again (It's beating) It's beating, I'm breathing in oxygen (One more time, say, "I can feel my heart") I can feel my heart (There it goes again) There it goes again (It's beating) It's beating, I'm breathing in oxygen
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord, oh I will bless the Lord at all times His praise shall continually, continually be in my mouth (Oh, yeah) I praise always On the mountain, in the valley I will bless the Lord, oh, my soul And all that is within me Yes, I will bless the Lord (Oh, my soul), oh, my soul (Hey) And all that is within me (One more time, one more time, say) I will bless the Lord (Oh, my soul), oh, my soul (And all that) And all that is within me I'm gonna praise the Lord (Praise the Lord) Praise the Lord (Praise the Lord) I'm gonna praise the Lord (Praise the Lord) If I have breath, I'm gonna praise the Lord (Praise the Lord) Praise the Lord (Praise the Lord) I'm gonna praise the Lord (Praise the Lord) ('Cause if I have breath) So let everything that has breath praise the Lord This is why we have breath, praise the Lord So let everything that has breath (This is why we're breathing) praise the Lord
(This is why we're living) This is why we have breath, praise (Chandler)
[Outro: Jonathan McReynolds] That means, I won't use it use it to complain I won't use it to whine all day I won't use it to hate I have a better purpose for my breath I'm breathing to worship (Yeah, come on) I'm breathing to believe (Yeah, yeah) I'm breathing to tell my testimony Oh, that's why I have breath This is why we have breath, to praise the Lord Any other use of it is beneath it so praise the Lord Some of the ways that I've used it I realized they weren't worth it The reason I'm here today is to praise the Lord Mm, yeah