In an article discussing a study exploring yoga and meditation as a way to manage fibromyalgia symptoms, Janet Hennard (see library) mentions one of the pain responses people have is shallow breathing. With yoga and meditation, patients learn to control their breathing, mindful breathing. In the yoga sessions I’ve been taking, the instructor regularly tells us when to breathe, when to exhale, and our motions are coordinated with breathing – a yoga basic. At the same time, she tells us to pick a sore place and to “breathe into” it. I breathe into my hips a lot. I understand the concept of oxygen circulating through the blood and reaching vital areas, so I understand the concept of breathing “into” an area of the body, but I think what we’re really doing it making ourselves conscious of specific pain points, the opposite of what I’ve been doing for several years. I’ve been studiously ignoring pain points because when I focus on pain, it intensifies. Instead yoga (and the meditative aspects of it) as a fibro management strategy tells us to focus on the pain and to breathe into it.
This got me thinking about subconscious reactions to pain. In high school, shortly after I started having chronic pain, my mom took me to a holistic doctor. I don’t remember a lot about it except for one thing: When I was having an initial consult with the doctor, he mentioned that he’d been watching me, waiting for me to breathe, and I wasn’t. Of course I was breathing. I was alive, wasn’t I? But what he was focusing on was that I didn’t breathe deeply or regularly. I still find myself holding my breath when I’m stressed. At work I would regularly remind myself to breathe…. breathe…. When people around me are stressed, I remind them to breathe… breathe… It helps stress to breathe into it. It’s not a distant leap to think of breathing into pain points. Mindful, deep breathing spreads oxygen through your body. Allowing yourself to acknowledge pain points coordinates breathing with pain reduction. I’m starting to understand that. It’s not focusing on the “chronic widespread pain” that the commercials go on about, but about concentrating your breathing and controlling your pain focus. It’s a compromise between obsessing over your pain and completely sweeping it under the carpet. Is that called coping?