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Life Through Dance

Holding On Too Tightly and Letting Go

By Elizabeth Dickinson

In an effort to engage my core muscles when dancing, I’ve been compressing my entire midsection. Unconsciously, I was also sucking in my diaphragm. I found myself getting more and more anxious without knowing why.

I finally caught myself literally holding my breath both on and off the dance floor. A lack of oxygen to the brain, heart, and muscles raises blood pressure. Additionally, research conducted at the National Institute of Health found breath-holding contributes significantly to stress-related diseases. The body becomes acidic, the kidneys begin to reabsorb sodium, and as the oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and nitric oxide (NO) balance is undermined, our biochemistry is thrown off.

Simply put, our body and mind need regular doses of oxygen to operate optimally.

In a larger sense, in an effort to get something right, we can overdo it, hold on too tightly, and work too hard. When I learned to teach yoga, my teacher always said that the foundation for a good inhalation of breath lies in the exhalation. The metaphor of letting go lies in the breath.

Holding on too tightly to your own breathing muscles is a sure way to create anxiety. Similarly, holding on too tightly to expectations, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs (even the good ones) can also promote anxiety.

As I’ve grown older, it’s become more important to me to take it easy and let certain things go. I was brought up with a strong sense of right and wrong behavior. Sorting out whether it’s a good idea to live with all of those beliefs, expectations, judgments, and assumptions can take a long time.

Someone once shared a way of deciding whether or not to repeat something (like gossip). I find it can also help in sorting through beliefs, expectations, and assumptions. Ask yourself these questions, considering the implications for both yourself and others:

If you get a confident yes from yourself on all three questions, you’re probably on the solid ground of your own truth.

Like breathing, our lives need a sense of flow in and out. Are there any beliefs, expectations, judgments, or assumptions you need to let out (exhale) in order to let in (inhale) an easier approach to life?