The Art of Breathing
In -spiration -( from latin spiro 'breath') - In breath
The Indo-European root "anh" ("breath, soul, spirit") provides the point of derivation for myriad linguistic developments -- including the Latin "anima", Sanskrit "atman" and English "animate". See Robert Claiborne, The Roots of English: A Reader's Handbook of Word Origins (New York: Timnes Books, 1989), p. 48.
Four Types of breathing:
Upper- Just using mouth to breath, worst, typical western slouched breathing
Middle -expanding diaphram, lifting chest
Lower - expanding stomach / abdomen when breathing in
Complete - Using all three - While inhaling - push out stomach, then expand diaphram and then lift chest - in one smooth movement (practise)
exhale: stomach in - imagine a beach ball at abdomen
Shaman Power Breath (Kenneath Meadows, Earth Medicine)
The Tao of Breath
Long breath, long life.
Short breath, short life.
No breath, death.
Since the practice of Qigong can be translated literally as Breath Work, the technic of breathing is an integral part of Qigong practice. The history of working with the breath is universal. In Yoga, working with the rhythm of breathing is called Pranayama and involves inhaling then pausing, exhaling and pausing. In Kundalini Yoga, there is the Breath of Fire which involves rapid breathing. In Tibetan Yoga, there is a holding in of inhaled air, called the Vase Breath, to create tremendous inner heat.
Breathing is our gateway to our voluntary and autonomic nervous systems. Respiration can be conscious or unconscious, as when you are asleep or have fainted. For Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or Cot Death, there is very strong evidence that very small babies die from their bodies forgetting to breathe in their sleep. This is tragic and explains why in the Chinese culture one finds a family bed. Allowing the mother to sleep with the new-born baby can be one possible preventive measure against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Since breathing involves both the voluntary and the involuntary nervous systems, Taoist masters shrewdly observed that our emotions influence the way we breathe. When we are angry our breathing becomes heavy. When we are sad our breathing becomes choked.
When we are happy our breathing becomes fluid and smooth. When we are peaceful, our breaths become long and quiet.
In Taoist and Buddhist training, breath is divided into four levels:
Windy Breath: As the name implies, this type of breathing is when we physically exert ourselves and get winded. Windy Breath can easily cause fatigue.
Raspy Breath: In this form of breathing others can hear the sound of our breathing. This is usually due to disturbed emotions or sickness. Raspy breath can cause tension and blockage of the Qi.
Qi Breath: This breathing is so quiet that it can be heard only by one's self. Qi breath can lead to stupor or sleepiness.
Resting Breath: Only this last form of breathing is so quiet that one cannot even hear one's own breath. This is the true Qigong state of breathing. Only when one achieves this level of breathing of total smoothness and velvetness can one consider to have really attained the beginning level of Qigong practice.
In Taiji practice, the common state of breath is the Raspy breath or even the windy breath, only rarely do I encounter a practitioner who has the Qi breath. In my more than 30 years of practice and observation, I have met only a handful of masters with the ability to maintain a flowing state of Resting Breath while practicing Taiji or Qigong forms. Resting Breath can be experienced more readily when one is doing seated meditation. Once one has reached the level of deep theta brain waves or the deep samadhi state the sound of one's own breathing disappears. At this point, one no longer notices whether one is breathing or not. The student will have very concrete physical manifestations to bring to her/is teacher for confirmation.
Caution, one should not try to arrest one's breath deliberately. Attempting to do so can cause great harm to any novice.
The training of breathing involves a personal guide who has attained mastery of at least the fourth stage of breathing. It is no wonder that most students are given the simple advice in regards to breathing in Taiji -- " breathe naturally".
" Breathe naturally" is not bad advice but it is not good advice, either. " Breathe naturally" to most beginners simply means that they continue to breathe according to their personal habits. To really begin breath training, one has to observe dysfunctional breathing habits inside oneself. Pay close attention to the upper torso, the shoulders, the upper back and neck region. The training of breathing does not involve artificially superimposed patterns from the outside. Even the esoteric master, G.I. Gurdjieff, was once told by his teacher that he should abandon all his learned breathing techniques; they do more harm than good.
The different stages of breathing occur naturally as one gains awareness and mastery over one's Taiji movement and respiration. The purpose of breathing is to bring vitality and oxygen into our blood stream.
But there are also many other crucial aspects in breathing: such as assisting the heart's pumping action, the flow of endocrine hormonal emission from the organs as well as the movement of the cerebral spinal fluid in the spinal cord. Uninhibited free breath is rare. If one has the good fortune to experience such free breathing, one feels deep, widening waves of joy spreading slowly over the whole body. This bliss of free breath is more intense than sexual orgasm.
To free the breath involves retracing the trauma of our birth. For most of us our first breath was filled with pain and fear. Usually a doctor gives the baby a good wack on the back or bottom. Emerging from the warmth and darkness of the womb, we took our first breath out of shock and pain. No wonder so many of us gasp every inhalation as if it were our last breath. This conditioning alters and imprints the breathing pattern for the rest of our life. (Now, if you happen to be born in a swimming pool or come from Dr. Larma's clinic, you are one of the lucky few who were born and breathe without pain. Accordingly, babies who were born without pain and allowed to breathe their first few breaths on their mother's belly with the umbilical cord still attached tend to do better in life.) Remember: before there is the spoken word, a breath must be taken. So breathing even comes before the act of creation. Truly then, breathing is taking in the spirit of life, inspiration.
Abdominal Lift ©
Roger Jahnke O.M.D. (Author of The Healer Within: The Four Essential Self-Care Methods for Creating Optimal Health, Harper-Collins) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This technique is a traditional yoga practice called Uddhiyana bandha. Stand with feet at about shoulder width, bend the knees slightly, bend forward, exhale completely, brace the hands above the knees. Either lift and hold the abdomen upward against the spine or rhythmically contract and release the abdomen while maintaining the exhalation. Complete by returning to erect position and inhaling before needing to gasp.
Health maintenance: 3 to 4 repetitions, 2 to
3 sessions per day. Health enhancement: 3 to 4 repetitions, 4 to 6 sessions
Disease intervention: Start slowly and build up to 6 to 10 repetitions, 8 to 10 sessions per day. Getting started: 2 to 3 repetitions, once or twice per day. Remember to build up slowly, if you are weak, this can be too much exertion if practiced too vigorously. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Other columns provide specific instructions for the following breathing practices: Breathing Practices Full Chest and Abdominal Breathing Every Seventh Breath Full and Relaxed Extending the Inhalation, Extending the Exhalation Exhale to Compress the Organs Rapid Abdominal Breathing Alternate Nostril Breathing
maybe it's just the deep breathing that relaxes smokers?
During everyday life be aware of the gap between the breathing in or out. prana
Why choose breathing as the primary object of meditation?
Why not something a bit more interesting? Answers to this are numerous. A useful object of meditation should be one that promotes mindfulness. It should be portable, easily available and cheap. It should also be something that will not embroil us in those states of mind from which we are trying to free ourselves, such as greed, anger and delusion. Breathing satisfies all these criteria and more. Breathing is something common to every human being. We all carry it with us wherever we go. It is always there, constantly available, never ceasing from birth till death, and it costs nothing. Breathing is a non-conceptual process, a thing that can be experienced directly without a need for thought. Furthermore, it is a very living process, an aspect of life that is in constant change. The breath moves in cycles--inhalation, exhalation, breathing in and breathing out. Thus it is miniature model of life itself. The sensation of breath is subtle, yet it is quite distinct when you learn to tune into it. It takes a bit of an effort to find it. Yet anybody can do it. You've got to work at it, but not too hard. For all these reasons, breathing makes an ideal object of meditation. Breathing is normally an involuntary process, proceeding at its own pace without a conscious will. Yet a single act of will can slow it down or speed it up. Make it long and smooth or short and choppy. The balance between involuntary breathing and forced manipulation of breath is quite delicate. And there are lessons to be learned here on the nature of will and desire. Then, too, that point at the tip of the nostril can be viewed as a sort of a window between the inner and outer worlds. It is a nexus point and energy-transfer spot where stuff from the outside world moves in and becomes a part of what we call 'me', and where a part of me flows forth to merge with the outside world. There are lessons to be learned here about self- concept and how we form it. Breath is a phenomenon common to all living things. A true experiential understanding of the process moves you closer to other living beings. It shows you your inherent connectedness with all of life. Finally, breathing is a present-time process. By that we mean it is always occurring in the here-and-now. We don't normally live in the present, of course. We spend most of our time caught up in memories of the past or leaping ahead to the future, full of worries and plans. The breath has none of that 'other-timeness'. When we truly observe the breath, we are automatically placed in the present. We are pulled out of the morass of mental images and into a bare experience of the here- and-now. In this sense, breath is a living slice of reality. A mindful observation of such a miniature model of life itself leads to insight that are broadly applicable to the rest of our experience. The first step in using the breath as an object of meditation is to find it. What you are looking for is the physical, tactile sensation of the air that passes in and out of the nostrils. This is usually just inside the tip of the nose. But the exact spot varies from one person to another, depending on the shape of the nose. To find your own point, take a quick deep breath and notice the point just inside the nose or on the upper lip where you have the most distinct sensation of passing air. Now exhale and notice the sensation at the same point. It is from this point that you will follow the whole passage of breath. Once you have located your own breath point with clarity, don't deviate from that spot. Use this single point in order to keep your attention fixed. Without having selected such a point, you will find yourself moving in and out of the nose, going up and down the windpipe, eternally chasing after the breath which you can never catch because it keeps changing, moving and flowing.
NOT ONLY ASTHMA, BUT SOME 200 OTHER MALADIES RESULTING FROM MOST PEOPLE'S TENDENCY TO HYPERVENTILATE!
ASTHMA IS OUT OF DATE:
A Revolutionary Approach To Breathing for Therapists, Yoga Teachers and Healers.
By Kathy Alexander.
Is it possible after the thousands of years human > >beings have been practising breathing techniques, that > >there is an important known factor that we have been > >overlooking? > > > >I believe that there is. I think it is so significant that I want you > >to know about it. > > > >We have all seen someone in an asthma attack, gasping > >for air. The ribcage is moving rapidly, like bellows. > >The clavicles are being lifted to get every bit of air > >in. Why are asthmatics short of air in an attack? They > >look to have plenty. I can tell you from more than > >fifty years of experience, it certainly does not feel > >like there is enough air! We are not short of AIR, we are > >short of OXYGEN.
Why are we not receiving oxygen when we are breathing > >in so much air? Because it is the carbon dioxide in the blood > >which facilitates the release of the oxygen molecule from > >the hemoglobin. This is a known physiological fact. > > > >If the carbon dioxide level is not high enough, the > >oxygen molecule sticks to the hemoglobin and is > >trapped in the red cells. So less oxygen is released > >to feed the tissues.
Chemically speaking this makes as well > >as
super sensitive mucous membranes in both upper > >respitory and digestive
systems. > > > >Prof. Buteyko, a Russian diagnostic physician, contends >
>that asthma, hay fever and allergies are symptoms of a > >breathing disorder,
for which he has found an effective way > >of treating. Retraining/or reconditioning
the breathing patterns > >over twenty four hours a day is the most important
part of > >his method. Average results are a 90% reduction in use of drugs
> >over three months, with big improvements by the third > >day of the course.
For more detail, see > >
Asthma is caused by long-term overbeathing, he says. > >We must learn to conserve carbon dioxide. Breathing out > >through the mouth is the quickest way to lose carbon dioxide. > >I experienced this factor with twenty three other fellow > >asthmatics four years ago in a five day (two hour per day) > >Buteyko course. > > > >I watched five severely asthmatic children ( needing > >three doses of neubulizer/cortico steroids daily) learn to > >bronchodilate themselves in just two days. And what a > >change of confidence! > > > >We know of hundreds of people who have overcome asthma > >through yoga, qi gung, TM meditation, and swimming. > >Some do, but also some like me, do not. Maybe this > >information may clarify issues here. > > > >When Buteyko talks of "shallow breathing" he means low > >volume breathing. The term "shallow breathing" usually > >refers to upper lobe breathing (considered inefficient and tiring). > >Strong use of bronchiodilaters combined with sporting activities > >from 9 years of age distorted my breathing pattern so badly that > >when I began yoga at 30 I needed physio for 3 months to learn to > >use the diaphragm in breathing. My pattern is still poor. Relaxed > >low volume diaphragmatic breathing is the end goal of Buteyko.
> >Severity of breathing pattern distortions and the length of time > >the body has experienced it are of course, factors in the speed > >with which new approaches are learned. > > > >
PLEASE asthmatics, don't take a whiff of a puffer
and then go > >to play sport! > > > >EMPOWERING YOURSELF > > > >This method
is quick! This method is so empowering! It > >is precisely working with the
key factors considered to be the > >physiological cause of asthma. It is most
important to do a course > >with a trained Buteyko teacher. It is very valuable
for an asthmatic > >to know precisely what is causing breathing restriction.
> > > >But what, you therapists will be asking, about the > >emotional aspects
of asthma? I have thought a lot > >about that too. How come approximately
50% of people > >who undergo this method totally overcome their asthmatic
> >condition over a five day course? So what of the attitudes > >of selfworth,
etc, that are so often considered partners with > >the asthma condition? What
happened to that in five days? > > > >My theory is that asthmatics have suffered
a trauma > >which have made them frightened of not having enough > >air. This
can be a difficult birth experience, croupe, > >drowning, etc - any number
of experiences both > >remembered or too traumatic and/or too early to > >remember.
So we consistently over-breathe. Too much > >volume per breath. The Buteyko
method is a conscious > >controlling of air intake. I personally experienced
losing fear > >of being without air because I was constantly confronting >
>that fear within my practice, and I presume others would as > >well. > >
> >Emotional release therapy is now much easier for me. > >One of the factors
that is important here is that much > >emotional release work, and deep tissue
massage > >involve breathing out through the open mouth. This is > >the quickest
way to lose carbon dioxide levels. For > >people who have not learnt to alter
their breathing > >pattern, this may result in tightness in breathing > >from
a purely physiological cause. Likewise it may be > >valuable for yoga teachers
to be aware of practices, > >such as cleansing breath and other breathing
practices > >where emphasis is placed on breathing out though the > >mouth.
These may not be appropriate for asthmatics. > >I believe this is very valuable
information for yoga > >teachers to understand about asthma. > > > >Are asthmatics
anxious, anxious to please, sensitive > >to criticism? Yes, I think generally
speaking we are. > >We cannot be sure of the most basic requirements that
> >our body needs. It makes us feel unsafe. We have also > >learned to stay
calm when our body is in total crisis, and > >this helps to learn to be out
of touch with emotional reactions. > >This is why this is so important that
children no longer need > >to experience the condition of asthma. I believe
that no child > >need ever suffer this condition again! I believe it could
become > >as out of date as rickets and small pox. > > > >I would be delighted
if I were able to help spread the understanding > >that this condition is
merely a breathing disorder, extremely easy > >for children to learn in just
a few days. I would like to make it clear > >that > >I am not a Buteyko practitioner.
> > > >There is much more that I can say about my experiences > >with asthma,
hay fever and allergies but space does not > >permit. If your interest has
been stimulated I refer > >you to
Breathing - Expanding Your Power and Energy - Michael Sky
Discover the Transformative Power of Natural Breathing
A fascinating journey into the physiology, psychology and spirituality of natural breathing. Shows how we can incorporate natural (whole body) breathing into everyday life to improve health, increase energy and support or quest for self knowledge and inner growth. Dennis Lewis draws on his many years of study in the Gurdgieff Work, Advaita Vedanta, and the Universal Tao to show how we can incorporate natural (whole body) breathing into our lives to improve our health, increase our energy and support our quest for self knowledge and inner growth. "Many books on breathing have been published over the past several years. None of them however has gone as deeply into natural breathing as this important work. . Lewis brings together in one book the psychosomatic vision, the scientific knowledge, and the vital practices that can help us discover the power of natural breathing and rejuvenate and transform our lives." - Master Mantak Chia, founder of the Universal Tao, and author of Awaken Healing Light of the Tao. This is a useful and important book, unique in showing how more ancient systems of working with breath and more experiential Western methods can complement each other to enhance our well-being." - Dan Hanlon Johnson, Professor of Somatics, California Institute of Integral Studies, and author of Body, Spirit and Democracy. "What a surprise! When I came back from a journey two weeks ago I found your beautiful book .on my desk. Breath - movement from the very beginning - rhythmically swinging movement of all being includes me in the cosmic circle" - Ilse Middendorf, founder of the Ilse Middendorf Institute for the Perceptible Breath (Berlin), and author of The Perceptible Breath, A Breathing Science. Dennis Lewis is a student, teacher and practitioner of Taoist and other approaches to healing and self-transformation. He is co-editor, with Jacob Needleman, of two books: Sacred Tradition and Present Need and On the Way to Self-Knowledge. ISBN 0-9651611-0-2 200 pages
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