Breathing is the life force flowing through us from birth until death. For most people, breathing takes care of itself without a second thought. However, for people with anxiety related issues, not breathing comfortably is a cause of stress.
My situation with breathing is one of constant awareness of it. It’s like being able to feel every breath in an ultra sensitive way: how deep it is going, how long it lasts, whether there is any block or sensation inside obstructing the breath, whether the breath is sharp or uncomfortable (the list of sensations and awareness of tiny aspects of how I am breathing goes on). Sometimes I start yawning because of breathing too much and then it gets obsessive and causes pain in my chest.
To have awareness of the present moment always returning to the breath is actually taught in many schools of meditation, and of itself it is not a ‘bad’ thing. However, in my own experience, every breath I breathe comes with an assessment of whether or not it is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in my head, which breeds more stressful thoughts. I am getting over the stress that comes from judging my breath now, but the strange ‘too much information’ awareness is still there regarding how the breath feels.
From the moment the issues with breathing began, I tried to fight it to stop. This fighting attitude made it worse. I also tried to hide it because I was ashamed of it due to judging myself as being a nutter (inner voice talking there).
The understanding I have of breathing problems is that they are there to show you where you are stuck and where you need to make changes in your life. For example, right now my breathing feels forced; I am trying to force my breath to be a certain way, the way that I deem is correct. If I am honest with myself, I am also forcing certain things in my life, rather than just letting them be how they are. A second parallel to the breath is that I am aware of myself all the time and also judging myself at the same time. (My inner voice is very sneaky and picks on my breath, rather than directly picking on and my social skills etc.).
If you have breathing problems, anxiety or panic attacks, ask yourself how your breathing feels. Does your breath feel laboured, shallow, strained etc.? Then, look at yourself to see if it is true for you that your life in general feels the same as how you experience your breath. Maybe it’s just a small thing you need to change and your breathing will return to normal. Try it and see if it works. In this way your breathing issue is there to show you how to get unstuck.