Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 24, Prompt by Colleen Farrell. https://tinyurl.comw/y9gwcqff
When we were in first grade, our teacher taught us yoga. It’s the earliest memory I have of optimizing our breath amid our surroundings. No doubt I’d been taught to inhale/exhale prior to first grade, but yoga was different because you were doing something alongside the deep breaths. Shaping your body like a tree, a donkey, a cat, a dog, a rag doll, a river… She sometimes played some nature sounds on a tape deck to lie down, relax, and visualize as meditation. Other times she would guide us into a serendipitous scene with a text she recited orally to us. Even then, I knew to cherish the air pumping through our lungs. I’d had bronchitis before. My siblings were asthmatic and I’d seen their attacks. They were scary, especially when it happened to our little brother. My sister and I were four and five years old when he was born, respectively. He was our baby, the first one we really knew.
My breath would change with my worries. I feared being lost, alone in a separate room. I was the oldest sibling, so finding someone marginally wiser to tease and challenge my fears out of me and generally keep close watch wasn’t easy. That could go to my parents, but they had jobs and other things to do. My quick wisps of anxiety began to form.
My guidance counselors and therapists have helped over the years. One suggested I hum or whistle a song when afraid. I don’t know the mechanics of how it works, but I guess the breath pattern of forming a melody is very dissimilar to the frightened panting I knew, so this allowed worries to dissipate.
I joined my church youth choir in part to give me other things to do besides worry. The subject in missal, hymnal music was actually pretty similar to some of my fears. I was very scared of ghosts, but the ghosts in Catholic doctrine are kind and powerful. They don’t make eerie noises in the public bathroom just for the thrill of it. They call upon their righteous and tell them to spread the Good News, and carry the Good Deeds.
Now in my twenties, my sleep pattern is sporadic after having previous employment and homework completed near midnight. While I’m not much of a formal singer any longer, I remember to do the diaphragmatic breathing to decrease my stressors and ease into relaxation.