Soul Musings/Day 6: Essensual Breath


All life that came before us depended on senses to navigate their particular place in the world, their physical survival actually depending upon it. As this connection deepens, and in some cases returns, our direct experience of life in the moment expands.

Simply taking one full breath floods our sense of smell with scent as nasal passages are stimulated.

Increases visual depth and acuity as oxygen stimulates our visual receptors.

Creates a soft sound that reminds us we are alive.

Expands ribcage, back and belly massaging the organs and moving the fluids within.

Increases sensitivity to touch as the breath moves in and out.

Stimulating appetite to “taste” more of life, enhancing aliveness…

….with simply one essensual breath.



Inspiring New Possibilities, Living From the Soul of Life While Co-creating Well Being of Body, Being, Heart and Planet….One Breath At A Time

Soul Musings is a 31-day practice for the month of December immersed in deep listening to what is emerging and unfolding day by day.  Eight sentences with occasional resources to explore more deeply.

Each post, invited by Soul, allows the words to emerge unscathed from prior planning, editing, or censorship.  Dwelling in uncertainty and dipping a toe into mystery this union of words is an attempt to resonate within an innate way of Being…. returning “home”.

To receive daily posts simply sign up for this blog and you will be notified through e-mail.  In addition there will be daily posts on the blogs below.  Thank you for being part of this practice with me!

Gaye Abbott




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The Scent of Life

eee“Breathing is one of the simplest things in the world.  When we breathe with real freedom, we neither grasp for or hold on to the breath. ”  Donna Farhi from The Breathing Book

Though we are coming closer to Winter this picture displays the pure joy that we have all felt in putting our nose close to the new life that is arising from the ground at the first hints of Spring.  As this young child bends down to savor that experience there are many things that are happening at once.

She is totally immersed in the Scent of Life with feet planted on the earth bowing down with the innocence of surrender to explore what will meet her as she inhales.  This gesture is innate and reminds us of the deep connection that we have with the Earth…and ourselves….through the sense of smell.

The sense of smell is vital to our enjoyment of so many things and is the most primal of our senses. Many species depend on this sense for survival.  For humans we have substituted so many “artificial” or chemical scents that many have forgotten what it is like to connect deeply with the natural smells that surround us – pleasant and not so.  We have shielded ourselves from feeling the fullness of life within the connection to the natural world, other species and humans.

Have you ever smelled something and a flood of memories or even an instinctive urge to take an action pour forth?  Whether it was an aftershave or perfume that a beloved person wore, freshly mowed grass, fresh buttered popcorn, a favorite flower, a negative ion ocean breeze,  pine trees in the forest……or the smell of decay, waste or a certain chemical like ether that you had when your tonsils were removed as a young child a long time ago.

For those that are “mouth breathers” there is a multitude of life giving experiences that are being missed not the least of which is an exquisite sense of taste.  “Seventy to seventy-five percent of what we perceive as taste actually comes from our sense of smell. Taste buds allow us to perceive only bitter, salty, sweet, and sour flavors. It’s the odor molecules  from food that give us most of our taste sensation.

When you put food in your mouth, odor molecules from that food travel through the passage between TasteSmellyour nose and mouth to olfactory receptor cells at the top of your nasal cavity, just beneath the brain and behind the bridge of the nose. If mucus in your nasal passages becomes too thick, air and odor molecules can’t reach your olfactory receptor cells.

Thus, your brain receives no signal identifying the odor, and everything you eat tastes much the same. You can feel the texture and temperature of the food, but no messengers can tell your brain.  The odor molecules remain trapped in your mouth. The pathway has been blocked off to those powerful perceivers of smell–the olfactory bulbs.”

Thus, the nose is meant to be used for breathing for so many reasons and as you can see it directly affects our sense of taste.  As you inhale the nose prepares the air to be the right temperature and humidity for the lungs and dust, bacteria and and other tiny particles are removed before the air even reaches the lungs.

A full diaphragmatic breath through the nose inflates all lobes of the lungs giving you more life energy, massaging internal organs, stimulating lymph and vascular flow……  opening the way to fully experiencing this exquisitely choreographed dance between smell and taste.

Fully engaging with our senses of smell and taste through breathing fully offers us the lusciousness and fullness of embodied life.   Join me in the Scent of Life……


photo58Gaye Abbott, RYT assists individuals to open energetic pathways for vibrant aliveness and full expression by removing the blocks that cover our natural innate blueprint, while addressing concerns through the opening of possibility.  This is accomplished through a combination of Jin Shin Jyutsu, breath repatterning, yoga therapy and targeted guidance/mentoring revealing the larger purpose and co-creative expression that we are here for.

For those interested in receiving private sessions please contact Gaye at:  Travel to your location in the U.S. or globally is available.  Please inquire.  Skype:


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Exhale and Relax…..

Here we are in the last month of summer and Fall is looming ever more closely.  Here in Austin it remains in the 100’s and will stay quite warm through most of September.  Summer for many often means taking time off for rest, recreation and travel, but there is a frenetic quality to this warmest season of the year that leaves a lot of people “burnt out” and over stimulated.

Being able to relax your body at will is a life skill that adds not only to in the moment joy, richness and satisfaction, but also to overall health, well being and longevity.  What if there was a tool that you had at your disposal every single moment to inhabit a calmer place even in the midst of stress and life challenges?

Rick Hanson Ph.D. author of Buddha’s Brain (which is an excellent book by the way!) gives some ways in which to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – rest and digest – that calms down the fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system in his book Just One Thing(27-28). Three out of five tips listed are all about the breath!


*”Do several long exhalations, since the PNS handles exhaling.  For example, inhale for a count of 3, and exhale for a count of 6.”

*”For a minute or more, breathe in such a way that your inhalation and exhalation are equally long; count mentally up to 5 for each inhalation and each exhalation.  This creates small but smooth changes in the interval between heartbeats – since the heart speeds up slightly with inhalation and slows down slowly with exhalation which is associated with relaxation and well being. (Kristal-Boneh, et al 1995)”

*”Relax your diaphragm – the muscle underneath your lungs that helps suck air into them – by putting your hand on your stomach, just below your ribcage, and then trying to breathe in a way that pushes your hand half an inch or so away from your backbone. (This is especially helpful if you are feeling anxious).”


As you attempt to fit in a few more summer activities and find them more stressful than enjoyable remember that your exhale will stimulate the rest and relaxation response in your body and mind.  It doesn’t take long to simply take a few conscious breaths with an intention of lengthening the exhale and relaxing the diaphragm.

You might be surprised at how easy it is to simply exhale and relax….



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Heart Focused Breathing

At the recent Breathwork Summit put on by The Shift Network I was extremely privileged to hear many gifted and wise breath “experts” share their particular expertise and stories.  It was actually a delight!

Among those who spoke were Deborah Rozman and Rollin McCraty of HeartMath.  Since it is only days before Valentines Day I thought it appropriate to share some of their findings and practices here on BreathingSpaces.

The bottom line is that the heart rhythm is affected by our breath.  The heart then sends neural information to our brain on how to react based on how we are breathing.  The more shallow and faster the breath the more emotional response.  As we continue in the “fight or flight” or sympathetic nervous system response pattern the hearts more chaotic rhythm will send more input to the brain that then keeps our breathing stuck in the quick and shallow pattern.  As you can see this could be a vicious cycle!

If our heart rhythm is out of sync, as happens when our breathing rate is faster and more shallow when we are under stress of any kind, then we are out of what HeartMath calls “co-herence”.  This heart rhythm of co-herence is one that is natural and in balanced alignment with all systems of our body, mind and emotions.  It turns on the parasympathetic system – our natural restful state.

Here is a Heart Focused Breathing practice that you can use in times when stress hits and you feel your breath rhythm change:

1)  Focus your attention in the heart.  (you can place a hand there as well)

2)  Pretend the breath is going in and out of the heart.  Count to 5 with each inhale and 5 with each exhale. (A rhythm of co-herence)

3)  While you are doing this breath rhythm, focusing on breathing in and out of the heart, bring a positive feeling like gratitude, appreciation, and compassion –  or imagine a beautiful scene out in nature that makes you feel good.

In a short period of time you will come back into a heart rhythm of co-herence through focusing your breathing towards the heart. All systems will come back into alignment.  This only takes minutes and can be very effective.  (HeartMath also has a biofeedback device called EmWave that can actually show you when you come back into a smooth and life enhancing rhythm)

On this Valentine’s Day share a heart-focused breath with someone you love!



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Take A Deep Breath and Smell the Moment!

Dear friends of mine are living in Bali Indonesia for a 9 month exploration not only of a simpler life, but of the senses.  In a Facebook video Vicki created she made the comment, we are learning to “take a deep breath and smell the moment”.  This lead me to share with you a chapter below from my book “Give Us This Day Our Daily Breath ,which will be released later on this month.  Enjoy smelling into your moments this week!!

WEEK #31: 

The senses of taste and smell are so intimately connected that without the scent of the orange or the unfurling rose filling the next inhale the taste buds and senses would not open the doorway to pleasure.  Take a deep breath and smell the moment!

Let’s focus on the nose and mouth for a bit this week.  The air moving through your nasal passages, carrying the smell of food along with it, is enhanced by chewing. Taste buds then blossom out to extend beyond the salty, sour, sweet and bitter and inhabit entirely new territories of savory pleasure.

Researchers say 75-80 percent of the flavors we taste come from what we smell. Humans can recognize 10,000 different odors, yet no two people sense anything the same.  Animals of course have an even sharper sense of smell.

We also orient through our sense of smell, and oftentimes are triggered by certain scents which bring past memories and associations to the forefront.  This sense is much more powerful than something that has been simply seen or heard.

We have all had the experience of smelling something and a person comes to mind, or an incident that involved something emotional or of a feeling nature…..or even a reaction to a scent that activates fear or excitement for it has been associated with something dangerous or advantageous to our survival or well being.

When we take a deep breath through our nose (which was made for it by the way) air is sucked up into our nostrils over bony ridges called turbinates, which add more surface area for the smells that waft through our nostrils.

Most of us have done the experiment of holding our noses and chewing something resulting in almost no sense of taste – certainly not expanded taste.

When we change to breathing through our noses, the sense of taste roars back in and we can experience our food and our surroundings with pleasure, which then stimulates the digestive system and our overall enjoyment of the moment.

Try walking through a forest or along the seashore without the sense of smell.  Maybe try breathing through the mouth instead as an experiment.  Would it be as pleasurable or as life enhancing?

It appears that there is more than one reason why breathing through the mouth decreases our aliveness and enjoyment of life.  Mouth breathers often hyperventilate and only the upper lobes of the lungs are inflated.  This causes muscle tension in the shoulders, neck, head and face and stimulates that “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system once again.

The nose however, contains tiny hair like protrusions called cilia that warm and filter the air in a rhythmical wave like motion.  The entire lung, including the lower lobes, is inflated and this in turn connects to the parasympathetic nervous system which clams the body, slows the heart rate, relaxes and soothes – and of course stimulates the olfactory nerve – or the sense of smell.

When we take full and deep breaths through our nostrils we enhance the pleasure in, and enjoyment of, our lives.  See how many smells you can identify this week and allow your taste and sensual life buds to open up wide! (Copyright 2011/Gaye Abbott)

Quotes of the Week:

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.” ~Diane Ackerman

Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”  ~Helen Keller


Patterns As Prisons

Dewitt Jones  “Our patterns, too long unquestioned, become our prisons. Break the pattern! And see the scene before you with new eyes.”

Weekly I receive a picture and quote from DeWitt Jones, an internationally known photo journalist who is committed to viewing life and the world as something to celebrate every single day.  This weeks picture and quote made me start thinking about the patterns of breathing that we inhabit on a moment to moment basis, most of which we are completely unaware of.

What I saw in the pattern of the regimented vineyard above was multifaceted.  The red bucket of course interrupts the necessary uniformity required to grow and harvest grapes – almost as if it was an exclamation point thrown in to startle the eyes from only seeing a certain pattern.  The mass of yellow flowers beneath support the possibility of other choices as they wildly grow in whatever way they choose.

Having lived in wine country for 14 years I was used to seeing scenes such as the one in this picture and noticed when the new growth or Fall colors would change the landscape and thus the pattern.  However, there was always an underlying blueprint that best supported optimal growth.

This is how I see the patterns of our breathing.  The underlying blueprint for optimal breathing was installed before you were even born and activated once you took your first breath.  It is what is overlaying this healthy natural breath blueprint that I address here.

A very large percentage of people breathe very shallowly using secondary breath muscles (neck, upper back and chest).  Consequently why there is so much tension and discomfort in the head, neck and shoulders.  These muscles were never meant to be the primary care giver for the breath. They are often depended on because of bad posture, sitting for long periods of time, stress and fear, and most certainly lack of daily movement to stimulate natural breathing cycles as a result of being in our heads way too much of the time.

Did you know that there is a correlation between upper chest breathing and heart disease?  Of note is that almost all people that have had heart attacks are presumably chest breathers.  The heart is attached to the diaphragm by fascia.  Each time we breathe utilizing the diaphragm and other primary muscles for breathing the heart is massaged!

This is just one of the many benefits that a natural fluid diaphragmatic breath can bring.  Our primary breathing muscles are the thoracic diaphragm, the muscles between the ribs (intercostals), and the abdominal muscles (front of belly) as well as the pelvic diaphragm.  When you breathe in a natural healthy way the breath should be felt in pelvis, belly, back, and all of the ribcage.

Invite a full embodied breath in today and give it to the rising sun – a key to break free of the patterns that have captured your vital health and aliveness!



Breathing In A Danish Psychomotor View

Breathing Spaces is blessed to have a global readership which brings new perspectives on the breath to my attention.  I was most fortunate to connect with a Danish “psychomotor therapist” by the name of Siff L. E. Skovenborg just a month ago.

Siff  shared with me that Denmark has a high level education training program completely centered on a humanistic approach to movement, breath, and body awareness.  Of course I was intrigued and asked if she would write an article for BreathingSpaces.

Below you will find her article.  I invite you to dialog with Siff either via a comment here, or directly to her e-mail below.

Breathing In A Danish Psychomotor View

By Siff L. E. Skovenborg – psychomotor therapist

Being a therapist and teacher of psychomotricity in Denmark, working with breath and breathing patterns has for years been a special interest for me. Psychomotricity is a therapy with roots in phenomenology and body therapy (Reich and Lowen) as well as anatomy and physiology. The tradition however goes further back than that. The Danish psychomotoric tradition started in the 1930’s and sprung from dance, performance and gymnastics into a manual treatment therapy. The focus has always been to balance the work of the muscles and to increase the awareness of the body so that the bodily impulses could spring more freely and expressively. In that way the view of the body has roots in the humanistic approach.

The body is viewed as a totality – there’s no real division between mind and matter – only when we focus the attention to one dimension it seems to be a difference in expression. The same goes for the breath. The way we breathe is the way we live. Holding or controlling breath is holding or controlling the life we lead. Breathing solely in the belly or the chest is avoiding contact or relation to the emotions or sensations in these areas.

Still there are two ways for the breath to function: autonomic or voluntary. Voluntary is when you control the breath either to increase the expanse or to decrease or even stop breathing for a shorter or longer period. Still we breathe when sleeping, when being unaware or in need for more air for instance when exercising. However the controlled breathing can become a pattern that affects the autonomic function. Doing breathing exercises or being afraid of being in touch with emotional responses can limit where the breath goes, how much air we breathe in or out and how the muscles that make the breathing happen works.

So the work of a psychomotoric therapist is to open for the breathing space and for more autonomic control, so that you get a free, diverse breathing that regulates itself according to the situation. In order to do so, we have different approaches depending on the client’s history and resources (bodily/mentally and socially).

If a client that has learned a controlled breath for example in yoga classes and believes that a belly breath is the only right way to breathe. Here the therapist can choose to educate the client about the physiology of breathing and the autonomic function. If the client has the possibility of viewing a small baby in his or her sleep the variety of breathing can be seen and understood. Then exercises to learn to let the breath control itself can be relevant. Jacques Dropsy author of ‘The Well-Tuned Body’ describes such exercises, that we also use in psychomotricity.

Another example could be a client who is afraid to be in touch with emotions, you need to teach the client to deal with emotions first. We do that by letting the client describe the bodily sensations in a matter of a fact way. What is a matter of fact is the heart beating, the sweat, the pulse, the muscle tension, the breath. If the client tends to talk from the emotions or the mind, the therapist keeps helping the client back to a descriptive approach. When this approach succeeds, the client experiences that the emotion or sensation lingers off. Gradually he experiences mastery of being in the present with the sensation without changing it willingly or forcefully. When this is learned we can start working directly or indirectly with breath.

As a psychomotoric therapist we tend to begin the work with the breath indirectly, as the direct approach can make the client too aware of the breath to let it work automatically. Indirect work is for example manually or through exercises which increase the elasticity of connective tissue around the body, or by doing exercises that demand more oxygen and therefore forces the body to take deeper or stronger breaths.  Direct work is breathing exercises, manual treatment on primary or secondary breathing muscles, or breathing awareness. When working directly with breath we almost always return to exercises that help the client to return to autonomic breathing.

Which approaches the therapist chooses, depends on the type of client. Every client is met on his or her own terms and the therapist always strives to engage the client to investigate the bodily/emotional/mental phenomenon together.

For more information you are welcome to contact me at or