I’d like to ask you a simple question that might be harder to answer for some, and quite easily for others. How many times a day, a week, a month, maybe even a year do you consciously breathe? Of course you breathe to live, but how often do you breathe intentionally to create goodness for self?
Many moons ago Oriental sages and Hindu yogis developed a powerful system using breath control, which they used for mastering fear, healing illnesses such as headaches, respiratory problems, digestive issues, anxiety, insomnia, and emotional upset. They even used the breath to attain enlightenment.
Breath is the master key to health and wellness, a function we can learn to regulate and develop in order to improve our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Besides affecting the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system such as heart rhythms, blood pressure, distribution of blood circulation, digestion, and more, breathing has direct connections to emotional states and moods. You cannot be upset if your breathing is slow, deep, quiet and regular, which always centers one emotionally.
Nationally known Dr. Andrew Weil states that thoughts are the source of much of our anxiety, guilt, and unhappiness. If you could get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself dwelling on upsetting thoughts you will notice an immediate shift in your consciousness. Not just noticing how you are taking in air, but connecting to your breath in a much deeper way.
Breathing normal is what sustains us. The Spiritual life-force within our breath is not the same as the air we breathe in to keep us alive. It is our connection to source, to all that is.
Taoist calls the breath Chi, Hindu’s call the breath Prana, Christian’s call the breath the Holy Spirit – whichever name it is given, the breath is the mind, body, and spirit connection of our being.
“Always practice mindfulness of breathing for when maintained it brings great fruit of many blessings” ~ Buddha
Do you know when your breath is slow, deep, quiet, and regular you breathe 18 times per minute? Do you know that the ocean waves meet the shore 18 times per minute? Not only are we attracted to the ocean for its negative ionic treasures that enhance moods and promote good feelings, which in turn creates good health, but we are to mirror the waves for well-being through our breath, bringing in calmness whenever we make the choice to connect with our breath within the breath.
Mirroring the ocean waves through breath to calm, balance and center is a direct link to well-being. This we can do consciously, or sub-consciously just by showing up. However, there are also times in our life when we mirror indirectly such as rhythm of the moon and its cycles. For instance, the ebb and flow of the tides is caused by the gravitation of the moon and the moon has an effect on the whole earth. 70% of the human body (fluid) is made up of water, Hiroshi Doi-sensei, Reiki Master Teacher, states the human body consists of the same ingredients as the seawater and our emotions get raised up and down accordingly with the rhythm of the moon. Learning to breathe in a conscious manner can help the ebb and flow of the tide taking place within on a daily basis.
Directly in so many healthy and un-healthy ways we mirror other people and they in turn mirror us. Agitated minds of other people will agitate your own mind. If you are around people who are calm, centered, serene, you yourself begin to radiate this peaceful energy and your tension diminishes, and you let go of stress without making any effort. If you are with people who are anxious, angry, filled with tension stress, you will naturally mirror those states as well.
Pay attention and spend as little time or no time with people of agitated minds. If you have no control over the situation at this juncture in your life here is a useful strategy for balancing and focusing your own mind and body. In doing so you may become the mirror for others.
When you feel a shift toward unpleasantness within your being and want to consciously make a change for better, simply notice how you are breathing in that moment. Notice where you take in air, is it into your belly, or into your chest? Breathing with our chest tells our bodies that something is wrong and we need to take action. This breathing is a wonderful tool if we have to run from a saber tooth tiger, or in any kind of danger. Breathing with our chest, along with inhaling and exhaling through our mouth causes the reaction known as the Fight or Flight response. This adrenaline rush prepares us for danger, for action; fight or run – when we were cave men this adrenaline rush is what saved our lives. Today – when this same adrenaline rush kicks in for no reason, no present danger, and no action is needed, society has given it a new name known as anxiety… So, just note what area of your body you’re breathing in to. If it’s the chest, make those small corrections by placing your hand on your belly, and allow your belly to expand with the in breath and decrease on the out breath. Begin to slow the breath down and breathe in and out through your nose, taking in the breath of life slow and even, deep breathes into the belly, and exhaling longer than you inhaled, allowing your shoulders to relax and let go of any tension you may be holding on to. Sometimes just noticing your breath starts the change and relaxation takes place. When you are calm, practice conscious breathing, using a slow, deep, quiet and regular breath and when you are faced with stressful moments the breath within the breath will be second nature for you to quickly make the switch, bringing in calmness not only for you, but all those around you.
Andy Caponigro, a former concert guitarist who has been healing people with the powers of the breath since mid 1970’s states that our breath not only controls all experiences of pain and fear, it also contains the most powerful healing energies in the universe. With dedicated practice, almost anyone can tap the powerful gifts of healing that lie dormant within their breath.
Breathing Techniques for Practice:
Calming Breath: Ujjayi breathing has been used by Yogi’s for thousands of years as well as many practices of meditation and movement. Breathing in such a manner helps one tap into the breath of life – the spiritual life-force that gives our breath its life-sustaining powers.
Practicing Ujjayi breathing works to clear the mind and gets us connected with our inner thoughts while relaxing the body.
Begin by inhaling through your nose and as you exhale open your mouth and whisper the sound: HAA
Practice breathing this way three (3) times to get the feel of it.
Please note that it’s very important to breathe slow and deep into the belly and allowing your exhale to be longer than the inhale.
Once you feel you’ve got the hang of it, begin to inhale and exhale through your nose, still making the HAA sound in your throat. It will sound like the ocean waves as you exhale.
Slow, deep, purposeful breathing said plainly is just so calming for the mind, body, and spirit. As you breathe with Ujjayi breath, allow your shoulders to relax and then with each breath spread this relaxation throughout your entire body.
Flow of Breath to Increase Balanced Energy: Begin by noticing the natural flow of your breathing. As you inhale, draw your attention up along the back of your body, starting at the base of your spine to the top of your head. Then, as you exhale, allow your awareness to flow from the crown of your head down along the front of your body all the way to the base of the spine, completing a full circle. Inhaling, again draw your awareness up from the bottom of your spine and continue the circle rising up the back and then flowing down along the front of the body. The beginning and end point of the breath is at the bottom of the spine.
Now, if you’d like at the peak of your inhalation, focus your attention at the crown of your head for a moment and imagine the breath as a white cleansing breathe and allow the flow to continue to the bottom of the spine again. Practice breathing, with or without the use of color until you establish an easy, effortless, circular flow of energy around you. Once you know how to initiate this flow of balancing energy and awareness you are able to rest in this circulation of energy while you are engaged in other activities.
At first this might feel awkward, but like anything, with practice it will become more familiar and will unfold in a more effortless and deeply sensed way.
Calming the Nervous System: This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Begin by placing the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. Now, exhale completely through your mouth, making whoosh sound, feel your shoulders drop and relax. Next close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four, drawing the breath deep into your belly. Once you’ve reached the count of four (4), hold this breath for a count of seven (7). Then, for a count of eight (8) exhale completely through your mouth, still keeping your tongue behind the upper front teeth, making a whoosh sound.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
For the first month, keep this breath pattern to four (4) cycles, but do as often as you’d like. Later you can increase the amount to 6, then to 8, etc., you may also alter the ratio to 5:7:9 as you get used to the slower, deeper breaths.
“Please note that the breathing exercises, suggestions, and practices described below are intended to be purely educational. They are not intended to replace the advice of a qualified medical doctor. Anyone with a serious medical problem, or a potential problem, should consult her or his physician before experimenting with them”
“There is a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.” ~ Mother Teresa.