Breathing is the most important aspect of human existence, yet it goes unnoticed and taken for granted.
The oxygen that breath supplies to the blood, nourishes all cells and physiologic systems of our bodies and without it we would die in minutes.
Eastern philosophies pay homage to the breath, and consider its inherent and sacred power as the bridge between the physical and invisible worlds.
The masters of yoga and martial arts seem to transcend what we as a culture view as impossible......... They live long, healthy, mostly disease free lives.
In all yogic and martial arts practices the most important aspect is proper breathing.
Increased lung capacity is only one benefit of breath control.
It is what is contained in the breath that allows for the inner alchemy to take place.
Chi, prana, life force is the breath we take in and in the same instant it is the energy that sustains us.
Chi is everywhere and in everything.
It is a force that arranges molecules and atoms into form.
In order to gain the most out of breathing it is important to make no differentiation between energy and matter. Being of this mindset allows the breath to permeate the deepest reserves of the body and activate chi as a healing force.
There are a number of breathing techniques..... all begin with awareness.
Everyone breathes but only a small percentage are able to direct breath to specific parts of the body and use it as a healing force.
Few can realize its ability to calm the emotions and physical tensions in the body. Conscious breathing takes discipline, but not much as one would imagine.
Five minutes a day is enough to get started, as long as it is done every day.
There must be a framework and reference for growth and without consistency, the energy of the experiment gets scattered and lost.
A very basic understanding of the body's energetic patterns is important, but it does not mean the more you know about meridians and chakra systems the better results you will have. This is more about feeling than acquiring information.
The central channel of the body runs from the base of the spine to the top of the head along both front and back.
Here's How to Get Started on Your Daily Conscious Breath Practice:
Breath awareness is best achieved by relaxing in a position in which the spine is aligned. It can be sitting, lying down or standing.
Once you have done that, take your mind to the point of breath's entry, just below the nostrils, above the upper lip.
Now notice and make assessments:
What does the breath feel like?
Is it steady or choppy?
Does it have texture?
Thick, thin, moist dry?
How about temperature, cool, hot?
Does it have a color?
Do emotions come up?
Is it rapid, deep, short?
There are no wrong answers and you might find a description of your breath that has no words, but you alone understand.
Use your assessment to gain a starting point and then do your best to slow and even the pace of your breath. Evening the breath is noticing the inhale and exhale and trying to make them the same time length. In and out equally, without sound, developing a nice easy rhythm.
Conscious breathing is nothing fancy. In fact, the beauty of this practice is in its simplicity.
It might tell you a lot or nothing at all.
If you breath tells you nothing, it is still conveying a message to the mind and you may need to focus deeper.
It might be uncomfortable. It might be very relaxing. See if you can do this for a few minutes and notice where the mind goes. If it strays, come back to the gentle rhythm of the breath.
When the breath feels somewhat regulated notice the movement of the body with each breath. Initially we seek what is termed "natural breathing". You might recall seeing a newborn baby breathe and it seems as if the entire body is being animated with each breath. There is a noticeable expansion and contraction, with each inhale and exhale, nourishing every cell in the body. This is the "natural breathing" we seek to recapture. So many things happen in one's life. As we grow and develop there are many changes, many experiences, many stressors that can take us away from this inherent ability to nourish the body with breath.
However, it is a birthright of humanity and we owe it to ourselves to remember and reclaim the benefits of breath.
When we e relax and align the spine and "even" the inhale and exhale, we can notice how air is taken in and moves through the lungs and simultaneously pushes the diaphragm down allowing air to move into the lower abdomen.
The abdomen expands and the air massages the organs and glands. This is a natural happening and is not necessary to "think" of intake of air into this movement path . Just allow it. Watch it and see if the breath makes it to the abdomen and makes it expand.
A good idea might be to place your palms on the belly and see if there is a gentle rise and expansion with the inhale and a relaxation or contraction with the exhale. If the air is not making it into the lower abdomen and seems to stick in the chest area, go slower and softer. Breathe without sound. Do your best to relax more, making the chest cavity and abdomen 'heavy".
Be more focused on the spot where the breath gets blocked. Notice what it feels like or looks like. Do not force the air past any perceived blockage.
Then..... allow it to sit there. This might be the current limit of your individual breathing until it finds its way to flow into the abdomen. When the body relaxes and becomes one with the breath it will find its own way don't try to force it.
This is the first step towards being able to direct the breath and developing a meditative practice.
Try this five minutes every day and watch for changes great or small.
Stay tuned for more information on how to progress your individual breath practice.