The Power Of Breath

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The Power Of Breath

“Within many archaic languages, including Andean Quechua, Amazonian Quechua, Tibetan, Aramaic, Latin, Greek, Hawaiian and others, the word for “breath” is the same word that is used to describe life, spirit, and soul.”

Breath. That life-giving force of consistent support; the flow that cannot be stopped, until our physical death; The ebb of filling and flow of emptying, like the ocean that keeps the earth full of vibrant and diverse life; A sacred activity that follows us everywhere…when your in the quiet (or not-so-quiet) solitude of a solo momentbreath is there. In the energizing heat of intense movement- breath is there. When you’re raging at trafc or in triggered moments of emotional upheavalbreath is there.

Breath is like that friend who gets all riled up when you’ve been mistreated. They want to be detached and helpful but get sucked into the energy of injustice and perpetuate negative momentum. But breath can also be like that friend who stays calm, cool, and collected in times of panic, who soothes you just through the mere awareness of them. That’s the goal of breath awareness: to find in it a soothing friend, through all anxiety, and madness, through emotional turbulence, and overwhelming excitement.

I’d like to explore here, in the next few minutes, a few takes on the pure goodness of breath work; How diferent practices of breath work, and breath rhythms, can provide ease and flow in times of difculty; How
breath can transform traumatic experiences into fuel for transcendence and altered states of consciousness. I’d also like to ofer a few simple exercises to use when anxiety visits, or when troubles harass you, so that all may call on the friend of breath and let it show us how to practice self-awareness and compassion.

There is a lot of documented detail about the science of breathing, and the healing components of proper breathing, in relation to posture, alignment, and other aspects of human health. There are elaborate expose’s about the intricacies of breath, like an 88 page book written by yogi Ramacharaka, on the science of breathing, for example.

Some might find it funny that you could take a subject so seemingly simple and finite and explore it in such
an expansive way. That is sort of how breath awareness works though: In times when our attention is finite and limited; when it joins forces with resistant emotions, and other evidence of limited awareness: critical thoughts, sadness, and judgement, you can take a simple thought of attention to your breathing, and apply some guidance for allowing more of it’s healing power to flow. Then it grows into expansive energy that becomes more than was ever thought possible when thinking from a limited perspective.

Could it be that the phrase “the breath of the holy spirit” could have a layer of pure literal connotations, or
that the endless list of songs around breath; “Breath Me”, “Just Breath”, “Breath of life”, etc. could be pointing to a very powerful truth that creation sings out loudly about. Just breath. Just breath with awareness. Breath fully.

Breath Works

For Centuries people have sought spiritual awakening and healing through breath work, drawing inspiration and practical methods from traditional yogic practices, tai chi, and a variety of other spiritual and metaphysical
paths. Science has discovered immense benefits from various types of breath work (and as a side note has also proven, through quantum physics, that the basis of physical reality is actually malleable and influenced by the mere observation of it, but that’s a whole other subject.) Back to proving the benefits of attention to breath, because we all need proof to believe… or do we need to believe to prove…well either way, here are some beautiful benefits of breathing practices:

Breathing deeply can calm neural circuitry; slow controlled breathing has been shown to positively influence emotional states.

Deep breathing regulates blood pressure.

Inhaling deeply positively afects our memory; word on the street is that some researchers found that inhaling deeply, through the nose, triggered greater electrical activity in the amygdala, enhancing emotional recall.

Studies have also shown that controlled breathing may boost the immune system and improve energy metabolism, by triggering a parasympathetic response to counter act the nervous system’s fight or flight stress response.

One research development, involving controlled breathing, within a meditative state, showed an actual increase in brain size, which is interesting because a lot of studies show that bigger brain size doesn’t necessarily equate with more efective thought processing, so I’m gonna go out on a neuron here and suggest it is evidence of greater space in the brain. And spaciousness in a chaotic and overly-analytical brain environment equates to greater peace and tranquility.

A Holotropic New World

So what are some of the techniques and methods for channeling the expansive power of this shared phenomena of breath? (I breath, you breath, we all breath for more life) The following are a few types of breath work to consider:

Holotropic Breathwork: the goal is connecting body, mind, and spirit, to achieve wholeness. Participants are guided through breathing exercises, lying down, often with powerful music, and bodywork, led by certified practitioners. This type of breath work has been described as bringing people into altered states of consciousness.

Holotropic Breathwork: the goal is connecting body, mind, and spirit, to achieve wholeness. Participants are guided through breathing exercises, lying down, often with powerful music, and bodywork, led by certified practitioners. This type of breath work has been described as bringing people into altered states of consciousness.

Clarity Breathwork: The main goal is to teach people how to breath fully, and release emotional energy. Sessions include depth intuitive counseling, somatic exploration, and circular connected breathing.

Biodynamic Breathwork: This type of breath work integrates 6 categories; breath, movement, sound, touch, emotion, and meditation. It might also include music or sound therapy, vocalization, whole-body shaking, and even dance therapy. The goal is to create space and relaxation in your physical body, and through this space, access self-transformation.

There are many other modalities for working with the breath: Integrative Breathwork, Shamanic Breathwork, Vivation, Zen Yoga Breathwork, Transformational Breathwork, Upraised Sky and Cloud Breathwork, just to name a few (I just made that last one up actually-it’s when you “look up to the sky, and mouth is opened wide”- inspired by a Dave Mathews Band Song.

Practice Makes Euphoria: Try this at Home

So would you like to bring a piece of the vast world of breath work into your own tool box for recovery? Well, here are a few practices you can do in the comfort of your own home:

The 5,7,8 Breath

Based on an ancient, yoga technique called pranayama, this practice helps bring deep relaxation and can help you fall asleep at night:

1. Find a space to sit or lie
2. Rest the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth (it takes a little practice to keep your tongue here throughout the
breathing)

3. Let your lips part, make a whooshing sound,exhaling completely through your mouth

4. Close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to 4 in your head

5. Hold your breath for 7 seconds

6. Make another whooshing sound and exhalethrough your mouth for 8 seconds

7. Repeat steps 4-6, it doesn’t take much time to feel the relaxing benefits of this one

Circular Connected Breathing

1. Lie down in a comfortable position on your back

2. Take in a slow, steady breath, to fill your lungs completely

3. With no pause or break, as soon as the lungs are almost filled, begin to breath out fully in the same pace of continuity

4. Focus on the continuous “circular” breathing, where there are no gaps between in-breath and out-breath and there is a pattern of slow and steady constant breathing

5. You will breath a little faster than usual, to maintain a steady circular breath pattern, pay attention to staying as relaxed as possible

6. Mouth breathing supports greater emotional release but if you feel more comfortable breathing through the nose, that works too, in about 10 minutes your body will find its own rhythm and pace.

7. After about 15-20 minutes you may begin to feel a bit tingly and euphoric

Alternate Nostril Breathing

1. This is a type of yogic breathing that is often described as cleansing and purifying: Find a comfortable seated position, rest left palm on your left knee and bring right hand up to nose

2. With the right thumb, close the right nostril and begin to slowly inhale through the left nostril

3. At the completion of your inhale, take your right ring finger and close the left nostril, pause and breath out through your right nostril

4. At the completion of the out-breath, breath in through the open right nostril

5. Close the right nostril with the right thumb, pause,and breath out slowly through the left nostril

6. Breath in through the left nostril

7. Close the left nostril with the ring finger, pause, and breath out slowly through the right nostril

8. Repeat this pattern 5-10 times, then rest right hand back on right knee and breath normally

So there you have it, the proof is in the pudding…or in the euphoric, altered state of consciousness in this case; delicious like pudding, but requiring a lot less ingredients- just you, and your breath.