In my blog ‘How can art help with self-regulation’ I talked about using art to help clients connect to the here and now and be fully present and self-regulate. I mentioned that one of the ways of achieving this is to literally draw the breath.
When we draw our breathing patterns it helps us to focus, it uses our senses of touch, hearing and sight as well as our bodies; it reinforces being in the here and now. It is very grounding and calming, interrupting feelings of stress, anxiety and overwhelm and moves attention away from distressing thoughts and feelings. It helps us to manage our emotions, regulate the effects on our bodies and think more clearly.
Using this art based approach is also a wonderful way for people who find it difficult to quieten busy minds in traditional mindfulness practice to experience that quietening and connection with their inner selves.
In his book Draw Breath, Tom Granger explores the art of breathing taking readers through a programme of creative exercises to deepen their connection between body, mind and breath.
‘…through conscious breathing, you can influence, regulate and balance all of the others. It’s a doorway into parts of yourself you feel you have no control over, a secret pathway into the subconscious, hidden in plain sight’. Tom Granger, Draw Breath
A simple exercise
Below I have shared an image of an exercise I did from Draw Breath. It is called ‘Mind The Gap’ (Draw Breath, page 56) and focuses on the natural rhythm of the breath whilst bringing attention to the natural pause at the end of the out breath. Granger says of this exercise that simply drawing our attention to the natural pause at the end of the out breath can itself be a very relaxing experience.
Starting at the right, I let my pen follow my in breath with a downward mark and then move upwards on my outward breath with my pen pausing at the top as I noticed the natural pause in my breathing. Then as I breathed in, my pen moved downwards again and so I continued. You will notice from my drawing that the in and out breaths became longer and then start to slow as I became focused and in tune with my breathing. It was a very relaxing experience, and I felt my mind slow, and my body relax as I did this.
Draw Breath by Tom Granger, Summersdale 2019