Breathing. It’s a crime. At least it feels that way. They’re making kids from the age of six up wear masks to school here in France. I’m joining a parents protest this week against the imposition on our children. It’s too much. Let the kids be. They need to run free from the Bogeyman. The market went ahead this Tuesday, despite the Lockdown or Le Confinement as it’s known here. Police were everywhere.

Suddenly buying cauliflower felt like a backstreet drug deal.

Why do I feel so guilty? Anybody else suffering serious hand eye coordination issues with the mask on? Try putting that cauliflower into a bag with your nose and mouth sealed, suddenly it’s rolling down the street to land at the foot of a gendarme. How are the kids supposed to play ball?

I’ve taken to climbing the steps at Saint Ferreol as part of my allotted one hour, one kilometre zone exercise routine.

The incline is a pilgrimage of sorts, you have to pass the 14 Stations of the Cross, as you pant and wheeze your way to the top.

This week I had an epiphany. The air hit deep into my lungs and I started rhythmically breathing without my usual foreboding of a heart attack. Sweet Lord! It felt good.

My pilgrimmage: The Steps of Saint Ferrerol, Lorgues, France

As a chronic shallow breather, oxygen rarely breaks through to the diaphragm. I was getting high on my own supply. Babies do it naturally. They feel safe enough to breathe deep.

Somewhere along the tracks, we cut short our oxygen supply and move into flight or flight mode.

Hypervigilance. Like now. So many of us are holding our breath to see what happens next. Are we going to be ok? The best advice. Deep breaths.

The Iceman Hof knows all about using breathwork to survive uncomfortable situations. The 61 year old Dutch athlete has set multiple world records for prolonged full body contact with ice, using breathing techniques and exposure to the cold as tools to find the superhuman within.

“Cold water is a great way to learn to deal with stress,”

he tells Gwyneth Paltrow on The Goop Lab, her Netflix series that runs the gamut of alternative medicines.

The Iceman Hof: Wim Hof’s pioneering breathing techniques Image: Chapter 50

It’s no wonder so many Irish people have taken to sea swimming during 2020. Instinctively we know its value. In France, it’s smoking. How clever of those tobacco companies to latch on to a biological necessity as a business plan. The cigarette or la clope helps you breathe in fully, a comfort stick in uncertain times.

Not recommeded: Brigitte Bardot puffing on a cigarette on set, 1972 Image: Getty

Thankfully there’s always yoga. Pranayama is its foundation moving to alternate nostril breathing. Or you could just gulp in the oxygen as advised for holotropic breathwork.

I’ve just signed up for my second session next week, where essentially I’ll be tripping on oxygen to very loud music for the day. And it’s all perfectly legal.

The last time brought an intense feeling of connectedness as life force burned throughout my body. I was stunned. So just remember to breathe, when you can, mask permitting. I’ll leave with the wise words of Vietnamise Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: “To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life”.