The breath is the most profound tool known for purifying and revitalizing the Body/Mind. Something as basic as the breath reflects how you feel about yourself, as well as how you relate to the world. If your breath is shallow, all of your body’s vital systems will be functioning at a minimum level. If your breath is long and deep, however, the respiratory system can function fully and properly, and oxygenation of the body cells will be complete.
There is a close correlation between the physiology of the breath and the psychology of behavior, since the way you feel physically affects how you feel emotionally, and how you interact in the world. Because breathing is a key to physical well-being, or to the lack of it, it has a large part to play in determining how we feel emotionally from day to day.
According to traditional Chinese physiology, the human potential lies with the kidneys, which were thought to be the body’s energy storage tanks. The Chinese invented deep breathing exercises to charge these organs with vital energy (Qi). Deep breathing increases both the amount of fully oxygenated red blood cells, and the release of the waste product, carbon dioxide, which chemically changes into carbonic acid if not eliminated through proper respiration. Accumulated carbonic acid must be filtered by the kidneys, and this taxes the body’s essential energy, “Zhong Qi,” which the ancient Taoist sages worked to develop.
Long Deep Breathing is the most basic technique for balancing the channel pathways, the endocrine system, and the emotions. Inhale deeply into the abdomen, the diaphragm, and finally into the chest. Hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. Consciously breathe smoothly, gradually, and deeply, concentrating on making each breath full and complete.
Hara Breathing nourishes the internal organs, giving the body power and endurance. The Hara is a vital energy center located three fingers width below the navel, at the Acupressure point Conception Vessel 6. Concentrate at this point while breathing deeply into the lower abdomen. Let your belly come out as you inhale. Feel the breath being expanded into the depths of the belly. Exhale, drawing the belly in, visualize the energy circulate throughout the body. Directing the breath through the “Sea of Energy,” as the Hara is called strengthens the general condition of the body.
Breath visualizations tap the infinite creativity of the mind by focusing on certain parts of the body. With the breath, the potential for self directed visualizations and healing expands. Breath visualizations use the power of the imagination to unblock areas of the body, promoting new awareness, positive attitudes, and a greater circulation of energy. There are endless variations and possibilities for visualizations, you make the choice according to your condition, and the particular situation that you wish to affect. Different combinations of color, sound, body parts, guided meditations, and physical, mental, and emotional affirmations help to channel the power of the breath. The following is an example of a simple visualization that helps “Breathe Away Your Tension.”
Close your eyes, and focus on an area of your body that needs attention. Imagine that the breath is a substance that is penetrating into that area. Concentrate on breathing into the blockage. If the tension is in your neck, for example, breathe deeply in all those tight muscles. Hold the breath a couple of seconds at the top of the inhalation. Exhale, smoothly allowing your tension to let go. Use the breath as a tool for releasing stress. Inhale deeply, bringing the Qi energy into the affected area. Exhale, feeling this energy circulating throughout the entire body.
- Lay on your back, flat on the floor with small pillow under head and neck or a rolled towel under the neck to support the natural curve of the neck.
- Head is straight with arms at sides, legs stretched out naturally.
- Lips should be closed, but relaxed.
- Breathe through nose naturally, but without sound in one steady breath.
- As you breathe in, think of the word “quiet”.
- As you breath out, think of the word “relaxed”.
- Consciously relax each part of the body, from the head to toes.
- This can be done from the head down, chest outward to the whole body or from the belly button outward to the whole body. It is very important to visualize and feel this happening with each breath, like when you drop a pebble in a pond and see a series of ripples or waves spread out from the center.
Notice breathing pattern, and how slow and deep breathing brings relaxation. Breathe from the abdomen, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, allowing the abdomen to rise and fall. Focus on the gentle rising/falling, the sounds of the breath, and the deepening sense of relaxation. If thoughts arise, no need to stop it or pursue it, simply watch it pass in and out of the mind, as an observer. Focus can be facilitated by counting in-breaths as “one” and out-breaths as “two”.
This is a method to control anxiety. Start to let out long, slow exhalations through the mouth and take in normal, not exaggerated, inhalations through the nose. Don’t take in big, deep inhalations which could lead to hyperventilation or more anxiety.
- You lie on the right side, with head on a pillow (slightly bent forward), knees slightly bent, right arm bent at elbow with hand near head, left arm lying out on left side of body, and left hand on left thigh.
- Begin breathing in and out through nose, pause for a moment between each breathing cycle, during the pause recite silently one to seven words.
- Pick words to recite during the breath pause like “good to be peaceful” or “relaxation is good for health”.
- Do for 20-30 min., 2-3 times a day.
This type of breathing pause tends to increase abdominal cavity pressure and thereby enhances internal organ circulation and intestinal movement.