A rendezvous with the Breath.
by shunyo

My 88-year-old mom came to visit the family in Sydney. Australia. A sprightly grandmother of 8 and great grandma to 3, she is of small stature and is the proverbial pocket rocket, always on her feet, moving around with high energy.

On Day 3 of her visit she tripped and had a fall, fracturing her femur just below the hip joint. In tremendous pain, she was taken to a hospital and admitted under the care of one of the most eminent orthopaedic surgeons in Australia.

The trauma of the fall had an effect like the wind had left her body entirely and she was diagnosed as having had a mild heart murmur, and thus the surgery to her femur was postponed till her heart stabilised. (* Note: She has no prior history of a heart problem)

Once her cardiac rhythm stabilised, she was operated upon for her leg, and a rod was inserted in her femur. Our absolute salutations to the surgeon who did a fantastic job and had her sitting up the very next day and encouraged her to start physiotherapy and take a few steps slowly.

Physiotherapy sessions commenced initially once a day and then progressed to twice daily. When I queried about her progress, I was always told that she was very energetic yet she was getting out of breath frequently, and due to her weak heart, they were reluctant to make her do much.

I got permission to attend one of the physiotherapy sessions and keeping a distance I observed her training.

The physio would walk slowly, and she would follow on her walker, sometimes keeping pace and sometimes even outpacing the physio.

The physio would make her stand tall, hands holding a bar and ask her to swing her right and then her left leg in a controlled movement. Count of 10, which she did well but seemed to get a bit exhausted.

Next, he would make her do some other movement to a count of 10. She would start with enthusiasm but by the number of 5-6 would be gasping for air.

This made the physio’s very concerned and they would at times give her the day off, and she was also becoming lethargic and mentioned to me she did not like the sessions as she was getting out of breath.

Closely observing her during the next session, reality dawned, she was doing everything the physio said, but she was either holding her breath, breathing incorrectly, or do at least 3-4 reps in just one breath, No Wonder she was breathless after a set of 10 reps.

None of the physio’s had picked up on it. In fact, it seemed to have been a vicious circle, she would be breathing heavy, they would put it down to a weak heart and reduce the intensity. She, feeling out of breath was getting demotivated and above all the hospital would conduct more cardiac tests to see if her cardiac health was OK.

The fact was she was a ‘shallow breather’. That is how she had always been, and that is how it is with most of the world’s population. We have never actually been taught how to breathe. Most of us never even give it a thought.

Thus the training commenced, every day was a challenge in the hospital, “Mom don’t hold your breath while you exercise, Mom breathe in before starting a movement – finish the movement before you complete that inhale”, was like crossing swords with her daily. Trying to make her understand that she was holding her breath was like making one solve the Rubik’s cube the first time.

Slowly and after a lot of persistence, which included days of angry and disapproving looks she started to control her breath while she would exercise consciously.

She started to Inhale (start the movement) & (complete the action) before her inhalation would finish.

In simple terms – she learnt to envelop each movement within a breath.

The energy started flowing through her body…it complimented the movement; gave flow to the action. As she was enveloping each range of motion with her breath she was not getting exhausted, her muscle tone started improving (energised with the oxygen) that she was inhaling within each movement.

Her skin did not appear flushed after her sessions, she felt better, looked forward to attending the physiotherapy sessions even after she was discharged from the hospital. Her chronic complaint of constipation has seldom raised its head either.

Within 1 month of being discharged, she was back in her native town, walking stick folded away never to be used, as energetic as ever, no sign of any heart palpitations…the Breath of life is keeping her Body agile, and now a year later she is still going strong at 89 and may she be well for many more years to come.