Holding the breath is a response to fear, confrontation, a traumatic event, or being startled. It occurs in the freeze response; that last ditch tactic for staying alive when fight or flight has failed us. So why would we hold our breath when reading our email? Is it that we fear what’s there? Do we feel threatened? Do we believe we can’t fight it or run away?
In this article Linda Stone talks about this breathing malady she calls email apnea. It’s a good read. I recommend it. But I wouldn’t stop there.
Just as email may stop the breath, so too can any other perceived threat, especially if the nervous system is holding onto energy mobilized by earlier real or perceived threats. These can be as varied as an appointment with the dentist, a near miss on the freeway, or the rumor that your company is about to do a workforce reduction. Holding the breath or shallow breathing is a sign that our nervous system needs regulating; it needs to release the fight or flight energy stored in muscle and fascia. So it’s a good thing to notice the breath often. If you find yourself holding your breath or breathing shallowly it is a signal to consciously breath in and out deeply from the belly or heart several times until you sense a shift, a calming sensation in the body.
As the ancient yogis knew perfect breath is perfect health.