Breathing While Black Is A Radical Act In Itself
We cannot deny the inextricable link between life and breath. Yet most of us aren’t breathing right and others barely have the right to breath. As most of us are unconscious in life, we are also unconscious in breath. We rarely think about the very thing that keeps us alive.
The pandemic has awakened within me a dedication to Radical Self Care practices, as well as the intention to share knowledge with my BIPOC community. The flood light on the injustice around access to breath has never shined brighter—from police brutality to environmental hazards causing asthma and overcrowded detention centers/prisons—breathing while Black is a radical act in itself. Here’s to a revolution of breathing into awareness, accountability, healing, vulnerability, education, equity and action.
As babies, we naturally engage in a fully circulating and connected rhythm but as we grow older it shifts, becoming more rapid and shallow due to our trauma, environment, habits, posture and sedentary lifestyle. This weakens our respiratory muscles, creates tension in our body, and undermines our health and overall wellbeing. Our breathing is further impaired by stress, rage, fear and other intense emotions.
Imagine trying to cope with COVID, find stability and stay alive while being completely aware that you are a hunted human—murdered by “authorities” in public; essential but uncelebrated; forced to labor in unsafe conditions for unlivable wages; caged without cause; coping with stolen lands and lives; pushed into unwarranted and forced hysterectomies; used for target practice and racist entertainment without repercussion or accountability; characterized and vilified as harmful, one-dimensional characters in the media (from the news to blockbuster movies).
BIPOC are in a constant state of unconscious emotional terror, living in a space of fight-or-flight in this global culture of white supremacist, corporatized, capiltalist, patriarchal ideologies.
The degradation of our very personhood is instrumental in the continued universal accepted genocide of our people. Enduring modern day public lynchings aka police brutality trauma-porn to shift the white perspective into agreement that, yes, we are human. Celebrated as pride and nationalism, racism is built into the fabric, fascination, and foundation of our society and therefore deeply rooted in the colonized minds of all of us, in the spectrum of melanation.
Black breath. So easily ceased and continually silenced. Angry. Heartbroken. Traumatized. Dehumanized. Countless times I’ve found myself paralyzed with fear, feeling powerless, distracted, and unable to breathe. I had to find a way to turn off terror, tune into flow and prioritize mental health. Self care for the BIPOC community is critical.
THE REASONS WHY BREATHWORK IS RADICAL SELF-CARE FOR BIPOC
So many of us believe that wellness is unattainable or quite simply just not for us. Marketing will have us believe that it’s some whitewashed fantasy for bendy girls with a leg tucked behind her ear in sponsored designer yoga clothes or bros in mala beads doing headstands with tropical backdrops. Yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Wellbeing is for all—especially for BIPOC—if we want to heal the centuries of spiritual, physical, and psychological abuse, trauma, violence, and neglect. We are human and deserve to explore and be exposed to all the paths to better health.
I had dabbled in meditation, but questioned if I was doing it right. Read: Reasons to Choose Breathwork Over Meditation. I experienced breathwork for the first time last October at our Humble Bloom Field Trip and felt transformed. It was one of the most profoundly heart- and mind-opening experiences. But in my bootstrapped entrepreneurial life it was temporarily shelved like many other things—going to bed early, balanced eating, less drinking, releasing myself from nonreciprocal relationships with friends, family, and lovers—the list goes on.
While in quarantine, I went inward to find peace and regulate the psychological effects of the uncertainty. Enter my search for ways to survive a pandemic as a first-generation Carribean American Black woman with no financial safety net alone in Brooklyn with the Black Lives Matter movement, abortion, healthcare, labor, immigrant, LGBTQ+, differently-abled rights among numerous other battles all top-of-mind and teetering precariously with my sanity.
When Frequency co-founder and friend Vivian Rosenthal asked me to co-host weekly sessions in late March, I was a bit skeptical of the efficacy and impact of a Zoom call. I had started to dig into a daily meditation practice, but still needed help getting out of my head and into acceptance.
In April we launched a virtual weekly collective breathwork class that has helped me dig into areas I didn't know needed attention as a Black woman: melding breath and activism, activating creativity, thoughtfulness and self love with whole body awareness; resetting, restoring and reviving much needed energies to get me through this especially traumatic time, all while in a brave intersectional community.
In addition to the growing, loving community we’ve cultivated, here are several reasons why breathwork is Radical Self Care for BIPOC.
Breath Is Our Birthright
Breathing is a radical act. Exercise the freedom to own your breath. Recharge and reset from the constant exhaustion of being othered and pushing for equality through protest and perseverance of simply being.
Power To Heal Your Lineage
This fight for respect, dignity and value as an equal human is centuries’ old. We, as BIPOC, have a history of violence against us. Now is the time to give yourself permission to address and release oppressed and suppressed emotions. Look into painful places and begin acknowledging ancestral trauma so that new growth can begin with you.
Focus On Transforming Fear Through Being and Breathing While Black
Many of us operate from a place of fear most of the time. Whether it’s being underemployed or at a job where you cannot be your full self, breathwork helps to calm anxiety and fear during uncertain times. Challenge yourself to confront your fears rather than ignore them. Sit with anger and other emotions. Understand where they are rooted so you can work through it.
Breath Heals. Love and Listen to Your Body
We as a culture should embrace this opportunity to slow down, go inward, unlearn, release, and reset in order to reconnect and grow. Listening is an undervalued trait. We are always fighting to be heard, but have you stopped to listen to what your body is saying. Is tension living in your neck, shoulders, or lower back? Breathwork can move stagnant energies. The health benefits include physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Shed Untrue Toxic Narratives to Find Self Love
Constant bombardment from the media, family. etc., about yourself and your capabilities. We are our own harshest critics—filling ourselves with doubt and self hate. Breathwork helps you let go to make space for supportive frequencies that elevate.
Refill Your Reservoir So You Can Be Awake, Aware and Activated
Many are numb to witnessing the state-sanctioned genocide of our people, or repeatedly go through the stages of grief cycling through anger, despair, sadness. Rest is required for revolution, but also just for you to show up authentically.
Self Care Is Rooted In Community Care
A big part of healing is showing up for the community. Step away from ego and into awareness. Move from childlike ego-centered living into recognition, acceptance and power of your role in society. Resource yourself in order to feel resourced for others. Prioritize your wellbeing so you can show up for the community. Examine how you show up each day for yourself, extend it to others, and incorporate everyday practices to shape a sustainable future for our collective family. Breathe in brave community understanding that the goal of self care is to empower.
Find Community Across Intersectionality While Healing In Collective
Much of our societal problems are due to intentionally constructed divisions to maintain imbalances of power. Most people stay within their circles of sameness and are fearful of others. During a breathwork session, space is held for me to deprogram and discover, while feeling connected to conscious and vulnerable humans who value commitment to care. Comfort is complacency, challenge yourself to live in slight discomfort.
The Path To Sustained Justice Is Through Breath Equity
This isn’t a moment, it’s a movement. We are currently in a fight for a breath, in many ways. We are disproportionately affected by polluted air, burning land, police brutality, racial profiling, undrinkable water, pre-existing conditions, racist healthcare, food and housing systems and now COVID—the list just seems to go on and on. In order to endure and grow to wholeness we must remember to breathe.
Family, I challenge you to cultivate a practice of focusing on the most essential thing in life—the breath. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply, daily, for yourself and every weekend in collective at Frequency for a breathwork class that fosters courageous community connection and allows for a collective release, retune and reset.
Every Saturday at noon, we find comfort through shedding baggage, belief and boundaries together with humans joining in from East to West Coast, the Caribbean islands and the E.U. I look forward to feeling vulnerable and alive with strangers who have become holders of psychological safety through a screen. The benefits of breathwork have been immeasurable during the pandemic. I’ve felt much of how I operate and approach each day shift. I’m much more aware of what triggers my stress and I can take steps to prevent or mitigate it.
Now, I have several natural avenues to aid in continual self assessment and recalibration. Together, we can find calm in chaos. Sanctuary in stillness. Rebirth in breath.
This is a guest blog written by Solonje Burnett, a community leader, humanist, and co-founder at Humble Bloom, where she advocates for underrepresented people in the cannabis industry and beyond. Follow her on instagram at @solonjeburnett, and sign up for class EVERY Saturday at 12PM EST / 9AM PST. Use the code RSC at checkout for a discount.
Blog photos by Amanda Wallace, @mandacwallace
Give the gift of wellbeing to yourself, educators, and students: Photos feature Space BTWN travel yoga kits of which all proceeds go to Mindful Schools, whose mission is to empower educators to spark change from the inside out by cultivating awareness, resilience, and compassionate action. They provide educators with immediate tools for self-care to share mindfulness with vulnerable students. Use the code SOLONJE for 20% off.