Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A question of stress II

“Breathe! Martin! Breathe! You’re not breathing!” cried the shiatsu therapist. “Sit up and watch my stomach.” The therapist sucked a good lungful of air out of the room and I watched his little round tummy inflate to quite a surprising size. “You have to breathe right down into your stomach. You’re just taking little sips. You’re only filling the tops of your lungs. You must breathe deeper.” Alright, alright, you’ve made your point, I thought; what is it, have a pop at the remedial breather day? I stared the therapist in the eyes defiantly and filled my lungs noisily, like I was about to dive for coral. I knew how to breathe. I’d show him. Pah! I looked down to see if I’d blown my belly up big like his. The therapist followed my gaze and we both saw that I hadn’t blown my belly up big like his. “It takes a bit of practice,” he said kindly, “Now breathe out.” Discovering that you don’t know how to breathe properly at the age of 35 knocks the wind out of you a bit. I was a little deflated, you could say. And at that precise moment I’m sure the 0.00001% of stress I thought I’d got rid of re-entered my body. The therapist sat me down on a comfy chair and began to run through the rudiments of breathing. He explained that when you breathe correctly and fill your lungs right down to your abdomen it kind of massages your stomach. He said I should visualize the ulcerative colitis in my mind and imagine a pair of hands at the bottom of my lungs and use them to scoop out all the yucky badness. It occurred to me that if I was going to imagine my lungs with a pair hands stuck on them, then I might as well imagine the ulcerative colitis with a neck. That way I could wring the bloody thing. The hour session over I meandered my way through the backstreets of Hammersmith towards to the Tube station with thoughts of disembodied hands down inside me flicking the V’s at the UC. I practiced my breathing all the way home and found I really had to concentrate to get my tum to stick out. There’s definitely more to this breathing malarkey than you think. I haven’t been back to see the shiatsu therapist since, but sometimes when I’m sitting watching television and I notice I’m barely breathing at all, I remember what he said and I slip an imaginary knuckleduster onto each imaginary hand and knock seven bells of shit out of my ulcerative colitis.