by Lauren Fallat, MA LPC ATR-BC
The ‘Drawing Your Breath’ art directive is an embodied practice centered on breath awareness as well as responsive drawing to promote groundedness. Often when we experience heightened tension or anxiety, we may notice our breathing pattern changing, perhaps becoming faster, smaller and more shallow. The way that we breathe has a power over the physical changes in our body and these changes can promote a stress response or relaxed response through our autonomic nervous system. This exercise will draw attention to our breathing pattern in a given moment, allowing us to become more centered and aware of this automatic process.
The ‘Drawing Your Breath’ directive is versatile and simple to practice any time and anywhere- while you are sitting in the car, preparing for a job interview, sitting on the beach, preparing for a difficult conversation or for when you just want to focus. The drawing material used is up to you. This activity can be performed with any tool that you have available- a stick drawing in dirt or sand works just as well as a marker on paper. The goal of this exercise is to allow your breath to guide the pace of your hand as you move it in response to your inhale and exhale. Below we will explore alternate ways of engaging and observing the power of our breath through our art process.
Prior to engaging in these drawing exercises, you may want to slowly warm-up your mind and body by taking a moment to sit or stand with your eyes closed or focused down on the floor or table and taking 3 deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Optional Materials: Markers, pen, pencil, colored pencils, paintbrush, watercolor, tempura paint, acrylic pain, oil pastels, chalk pastels and a large 12x18” or 18x24” piece of paper (newsprint, drawing or mixed media paper).
Drawing Your Breath- Freestyle Continuous Line (Dominant Hand)
Go with the flow and see what feels best as you begin preparing to draw your breath. Pick up your drawing utensil and allow your hand to be guided by the inhale of your breath. The goal is to keep your drawing tool (pencil, marker, pastel, paintbrush) on the paper throughout the exercise without picking up your hand. As you inhale through your nose, guide your tool in any freeform way on the page- perhaps you are drawing a straight line up or a curved line across the page. As you exhale, allow your tool in hand to change direction or pattern in response to this change in breathing. Notice the rhythm of your breath and any patterns that may begin to form. You may want to set a timer for 3-5 minutes as you engage in this activity.
(Alternate) Drawing Your Breath- Freestyle Continuous Line (Non-Dominant Hand)
Same directions as above, but using your non-dominant hand to draw your breath. So if you usually write with your right hand, this is a time to draw with your left hand. You may set a timer for 3-5 minutes as you engage in this exercise.
(Alternate) Drawing Your Breath- Eyes Closed (Non-Dominant Hand)
Same directions as above using your non-dominant hand, but now you are asked to close your eyes as you draw your breath across the page in one continuous line.
Multiple Line Breath Drawing
Allow yourself to become in tune with your breathing and visualize your breath as a line. Take your drawing utensil, place it onto your paper and begin to represent your breath on the page using a variety of lines as you inhale and exhale, playing around with directions, pace of drawing and the quality of your lines. Experiment with creating fast lines as you pace your breathing with the pace of the line and experiment with slower lines. Perhaps if you draw a zigzag, inhaling as you draw the line upwards and exhaling as you draw down. Experience the breath as you create a circle or square. Allow yourself to create different lines with each new sequence of breathing.
Infinity Breath Drawing
Take your drawing utensil and allow yourself to become connected with your breath as you prepare to match your rhythm of breathing to the shape of an infinity symbol (or sideways ‘8’). As you breathe in, create the infinity symbol by starting from the middle of the page, moving your drawing tool down, up and around past the middle and across to the other side. Notice the rate of your breathing and urges to inhale and exhale. When you feel comfortable, attempt to retrace the infinity symbol in its entirety as you inhale and pause your breath until it has been completed. Once you have retraced one infinity symbol on your inhalation, do the same thing with your exhalation. Slowly letting the air out of your lungs and through your mouth. Pause your breath until the infinity symbol has been completed each round.
Consider engaging in this art activity daily or weekly as a habitual practice and document these exercises in your art journal. It may be interesting to observe the changes in your anxiety levels and extended states of relaxation as you engage more consistently in this art activity.