What Running Taught Me About Breathing

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

Our breath is one of the few permanent things of our lives. It runs in sync with our body, adapting itself to our own activities and the environment. Breathing is automatic, but paying attention to it is in many ways very beneficial.

A few years ago, I read book by Lisette Thooft, a Dutch author, in which she described her path of self-exploration. She discussed at one point visiting an alternative therapist who told her that she didn’t really appear to be breathing. She was breathing out but didn’t take full breaths in.
The passage struck a cord with me since I recognized my own breathing rhythm in what she described: I can go a quite a long time between two breaths. I’ll breathe in on one count, breath out on the next three, and wait another 4 or so before I draw another breath.

And then, I started running (I wrote about this start in this post).

When engaging in any physical activity, your breath will adjust itself, but I find that in running I have to almost plan out my breath consciously. Now that I’m running 5k on a regular basis, and not always when I’m 100% rested, I notice that I can’t get by with my regular rhythm of taking in very little air. I have to adjust and take deep breaths in on a regular basis.

The balance has shifted, too. Where I would normally spend more time breathing out than in, this switches when I run. I take 3 counts in and only 2 counts out. My body claims more oxygen than I normally consume, and it does so unapologetically. It doesn’t bother itself with thinking whether or not it has any rights to this oxygen, whether it deserves it.

Trying this rhythm outside of my running practice has been an interesting experiment as well. I can feel how the energy rushes through me and my body starts to tingle. Taking in more oxygen can make me feel somewhat light headed, but it also wakes me up and clears my mind. It energizes me and helps me focus.

Most importantly, this focus has helped remind me that I have the right to breathe. I have the right to consume the oxygen on this planet, and by extension, to eat its foods, to walk its forests and swim its oceans.

Having the right to breathe means having the right to be.
And sometimes, I still need that reminder, to take in a full, deep breath and let myself just be.

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