There are some wounds which the surgeons keep open, even though the process is most painful, because they know that to heal really they must heal from the inside. Healing over on the outside only means decay underneath, and eventual death. This is in most cases exactly synonymous with the healing of broken-down nerves. They must be healed in causes to be permanently cured. Sometimes the change that comes in the process is so great that it is like reversing an engine.
If the little woman whom I mentioned first had practiced relaxing and quieting exercises every day for years, and had not used the quiet impression gained by the exercises to help her in dropping mental resistances, she never would have gained her health.
Concentrating steadily on dropping the tension of the body is very radically helpful in dropping resistance from the mind, and the right idea is to do the exercises over and over until the impression of quiet openness is, by constant repetition, so strong with us that we can recall it at will whenever we need it. Finally, after repeated tests, we gain the habit of meeting the difficulties of life without strain—first in little ways, and then in larger ways.
The most quieting, relaxing, and strengthening of all exercises for the nerves comes in deep and rhythmic breathing, and in voice exercises in connection with it. Nervous strain is more evident in a voice than in any other expressive part of man or woman. It sometimes seems as if all other relaxing exercises were mainly useful because of opening a way for us to breathe better. There is a pressure on every part of the body when we inhale, and a consequent reaction when we exhale, and the more passive the body is when we take our deep breaths the more freely and quietly the blood can circulate all the way through it, and, of course, all nervous and muscular contraction impairs circulation, and all impaired circulation emphasizes nervous contraction.
To any one who is suffering from “nerves,” in a lesser or greater degree, it could not fail to be of very great help to take half an hour in the morning, lie flat on the back, with the body as loose and heavy as it can be made, and then study taking gentle, quiet, and rhythmic breaths, long and short. Try to have the body so loose and open and responsive that it will open as you inhale and relax as you exhale, just as a rubber bag would. Of course, it will take time, but the refreshing quiet is sure to come if the practice is repeated regularly for a long enough time, and eventually we would no more miss it than we would go without our dinner.
We must be careful after each deep, long breath to rest quietly and let our lungs do as they please. Be careful to begin the breaths delicately and gently, to inhale with the same gentleness with which we begin, and to make the change from inhaling to exhaling with the greatest delicacy possible—keeping the body loose.