Breathe. Exhale. Inhale.

Posted: September 26, 2012 in CrossFit, Exercise, Motivation


Exhale (Photo credit: roychung1993)

Everyone keeps telling me to breathe lately.

When I’m learning a new form and concentrating, Gary tells me to breathe.

When Stephanie is working on a particularly sore spot during a physical therapy session, she tells me to breathe.

When I have a meltdown, as if I’d turned into a special effect that puddles up and slides under the door, Neesa puts her hand on my shoulder and tells me to breathe.

When I have difficulty reading something I wrote because I’ve carried it all inside long enough that it chokes me like the proverbial fishbone, Anne and Maureen both have told me to breathe.

“Exhale on the push,” says Gary. “Inhale on the way back. Breathe.”

Stephanie told me a while ago that the body thinks it is helping you when you hold your breath during pain or exertion. Apparently your body thinks it is under attack and reacts to “help” you. Or the breath-holding may activate the flight or fight (or freeze) response.  I’ve read both theories.

It’s amazing what the body does on automatic pilot, trying to help you out.

It overreacts to innocuous small particles, thinking it’s helping you, but really flooding you with histamines that have nothing to attack.

It swells your tissues to immobilize injured parts, but causes pain and additional damage by doing so.

It releases a flood of neurochemicals to get ready to run or punch someone out. And if you don’t get those chemicals out, and you keep encountering stress, they build up. And they affect your brain chemistry. And then you can end up like me, a tossed salad of syndromes and symptoms that will make you miserable but won’t kill you.

So why do we have so much trouble believing the mind can make your body sick?

I believe my body knew for years I was accumulating emotional injuries and trying to ignore them and the coping strategies that were slowly making things worse, even when I was not able to fully articulate the problem. So it finally shut me down to the point of reclusiveness. Perhaps it knew what it was doing. Or maybe God did. I don’t know, I can only speculate. But it seems like a lot of things had to happen to get me to the point of converting to the belief that exercise was necessary.

And now I’ve figured out some more of the puzzle of my life. I don’t need to just write here; I need to write out a lot of the pollution in my mind. I’ve known it before; I just didn’t believe it enough or was too afraid to pick up the pen. I think I’m over that.

Foo Fighters perform a song. “Monkey Wrench,” that has a line that always seems louder than the other lyrics when I hear it, perhaps in part because the lead singer (and the writer of the song) pretty much screams it:

I still remember/every single word you said,/And all the shit/ that somehow came along with it!

Pretty much captures the feeling that almost everyone has about some pain that enters their lives, whether brought on by words or actions.

We all need tools and teaching to overcome our collective and individual past. For me, the tools I needed were exercise and writing. The former was difficult and avoided because I never was any good at it and always subject to ridicule; the latter was easy and avoided once it came under attack — it was no longer a refuge, but yet another place on the firing line.

But thanks to some very good people and an excellent method, I’m better now. May you find your tools as well.

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