For many years I have been aware of the power of the breath and have learned to understand that when you become present you no longer take your breath for granted because you actually begin to breathe consciously. There are a great number of important breathing-related functions for our physical, mindful, emotional, and spiritual bodies ( individually and overlapping), that most of us take for granted, including:
· The in-breath transports oxygen from the outside environment to the lungs and into the blood system to create an internal environment for blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body to where it is needed. After the oxygen is delivered to the blood it transforms into carbon dioxide to do many things, including assisting in the balance the ph of our systems and alerting our brain that we need to take in more oxygen.
· The out breath transports toxins from the lymphatic and blood systems from the inside to the outside of bodies.
· The breath acts as the power source to enable the sounds that we make.
· We use our breath to move mucus from our respiratory system.
· We use our breath to blow out candles, blow up balloons and air beds, move things along and so on.
· The breath is used to enable us to inhale smells and enhances our senses.
· The breath allows us to swim and keeps us afloat. Animals use their breath in this way too.
· Athletes use their breath to enhance focus, performance and balance.
· Our capacity to breath (this can be measured) can affect the onset and/or acceleration and healing of such conditions as asthma, high blood pressure, immunity, sleep apnea, hypertension, emphysema, and many more conditions that are affected by an imbalance of the gases in our bodies. Measuring respiratory capacity, when at rest and active, can give clear indications of the state of our health. The breathing rate and capacity is affected by things such as poor posture, mouth breathing, exercise or lack there of, fear and anxiety, state of health, emotional wellbeing, mental health and so on.
· Water is lost with every breath we exhale and this is high for people who over breathe and we breath out more water as vapour in volume then what we breathe in. The average breath contains in volume 5 litres of air containing water per minute. Someone who over breathes, with asthma for instance, can be as much as three times the average volume per minute. Mouth breathing loses more water vapour as it does not have the filters and specially designed anatomy that are in our nose that normally capture it
· Without breath, there is no life.
· In meditation and daily life breathing consciously connects us with our thoughts and bodies, and slows us down, reducing stress that interferes with memory and conscious thinking, visioning, and planning.
· We can use our breath to create mindfulness and presence, which in turn allows clarity and more meaningful connections.
· The breath can be and is used as a tool to create deeper intimacy between people – lovers, mother/fathers and children, friends and so on. Animals too will use the breath as well as part of their mating rituals and as a way to connect and identify their young and to connect – or disconnect – with others who approach them.
· Breathing consciously can temper emotions and settle anxiety and stress. In shamanic practice, the breath can be used as a medium to connect with hidden emotions and bring them into a place where they can be transformed through self compassion and clear intention.
· We can use our breath to direct energy and healing and purposeful intention to parts of our body and mind.
· We can use our breath to create a space for connection with inner wisdom that seems to rise in the silence and space created by conscious breathing.
· The breath assists us into greater awareness of our connection with the worlds within and around us. It connects all living things. The breath we breath in comes from the breath of millions of people around the planet, and the breath we breathe out will be dispersed and eventually be part of millions of other people’s breath.
The Power of The Breath
Ancient forms of healing and mindful practices such as yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, and vibrational energy healing practices such as shamanism, have long known of the power of the breath, long before science came about and provided evidence for what was once taken for granted; that our breath affects our well being on many levels, and can make the difference between a healthy life, and a life filled with physical, emotional, and mental challenges. The years have brought me many opportunities to explore the breath in its many forms. Here are the ones I know well that I have put together intuitively after spending time breathing with awareness and connecting with all parts of my Self for guidance – body, mind, spirit, and heart.
The Breath of Transformation
(Warning – please seek medical advice if you have any conditions that may be affected by changing breathing patterns such as heart conditions or asthma).
After more than fifteen years of helping other people breath into painful physical conditions and emotions such as fear, anger, sadness and shame, I began to understand that it is also possible to breathe into the polar opposite of all of these things – trust, compassionate awareness, serenity, and self-love and confidence. After time, it began to become clear that emotions were energy, and the number one rule in shamanic practice is “don’t waste energy”. There are only two choices in life, one will expand energy and the other will expend it – and at times it is worth expending energy in order to expand it. All feelings and experiences carry an energetic vibration, and we can learn to reshape and transform negative vibrations into positive ones to transform and better use energy. The breath helps us to do that. Here are the steps for this breath:
1. Sit or lie somewhere where you wont be disturbed.
2. Imagine that beneath where you are sitting or lying there is a crystal cave in the earth that can be any type of and colour crystal you choose.
3. Now bring your attention to your breath and take a deep breath and notice where you feel the centre of power in your body. You may feel it in your heart, solar plexus (beneath you chest), or in your belly – navel area. Breathe into this place with your normal breath for a few minutes.
4. You are encouraged to breath a little more deeply into your belly with your breath and stretch out your abdomen when you breathe in, and more so when you breath out – but not to the point of completely emptying your breath beyond comfort. There needs always to be breath in reserve. Do your best not to move your chest, rather direct your breath to your power centre.
5. Next think of a negative situation that is preventing you from being the person you want to be, and living the life you want to live, and feel where this situation presents itself in your body – where are you holding on to it?
6. Name the feeling you are feeling right now? Try and bring it down to the four base feelings that vibrate heavy energy – FASS: Is it fear, anger, sadness or shame?
7. Once you have identified the feeling, find a polar opposite feeling that your would rather have that will assist your to be the person you want to be and live the life you want to live? Here are a few examples:
8. Fear transforms into Faith through trust in one’s self, and in the journey you are on.
9. Anger transforms into Acceptance through compassionate understanding.
10. Sadness transforms into Serenity through graceful acceptance.
11. Shame transforms into Self-love through the compassionate understanding of Self.
12. Now, breath into the feeling you have identified, name it, and let it go to the crystal cave, and allow it to transform into the preferred way of being. Shift the energy. Let go of its power over you. Sit back and watch it.
13. Watch, feel, and allow the energy to transform and breath in the new energy into your power centre, from the cave. Relax into the breath now, and let go of the association, allowing the brain to continue the imprinting now it knows what to do, and enjoy emptying the breath into the cave, and reclaiming it in its newly transformed form.
14. Do this for as long as it takes until you feel a shift and feel lighter.
PLEASE NOTE – you can use this breath on a physical level as well for self-healing, letting go of the condition and transforming into how you want your body to be and feel.
The Breath of Restoration
This breath is excellent for those nights when you lie awake in bed and think too much. It is easy to remember and practice when you take time to learn it. However, before you use it, I suggest you take time to rearrange your thoughts and habits around not sleeping well. Shapeshifting your attitude toward ‘lack of sleep’ can make all the difference to how you feel, and training your breath to restore your health will distract your mind and activate it in a healthy way.
Sleep is necessary for good health; there is not doubt about it. Experts recommend 7 – 8 hours a night. They will also tell us that mind fullness and mediation is also great for good health. After years of practice, I have come to accept that an optimistic attitude is also necessary for good health. When you set out to sleep, don’t think about it or worry about it, or go into it thinking you wont sleep well. If you don’t sleep well, don’t dwell on it or talk about it, moving past it instead. Having rules in place like not looking at the clock and counting the hours, not turning on lights (use a torch) or working in the night, and the best one – ‘not thinking’! Make yourself comfortable instead and practice your restoration breath.
Here are the steps for your breath of restoration:
1. Sit or lie somewhere where you wont be disturbed.
2. Imagine that beneath where you are sitting or lying there is a vessel in the earth that will contain the energy you let go of.
3. Now bring your attention to your breath and take a deep breath and notice where you feel the centre of power in your body. You may feel it in your heart, solar plexus (beneath you chest), or in your belly – navel area. Breathe into this place for a few minutes.
4. You are encouraged to go a little more deeply (not past your comfort zone) into your belly with your breath and stretch out your abdomen when you breathe in, and more so when you breath out.
5. Relax, and allow your breath to fall into a natural, healthy, conscious rhythm, breathing in stages down your body, from upper chest, to middle, to lower abdomen as you breathe out, and then back in reverse – from bottom, to middle, top – like a gentle, steady wave.
6. Allow yourself to experience silence and stillness with your breath, where you no longer feel any physical exertion to breath, nor is your breath shallow. Rather it is long and strong, yet gentle and comfortable.
7. Breath in using this mantra “rest, relax, restore”, breathing out worry, tension and stress.
Resources and Recommended Reading:
Tess Graham (2012). Relief from Snoring and Sleep Apnoea. A step by step guide to restful sleep and better health through changing the way your breath (chapter 4, Know your breathing p.p. 17-34). Pub: Penguin, Melbourne, Australia. EXCELLENT EASY READING.
Stella Wella (2003). Yoga Beats Asthma. Simple breathing exercises and breathing techniques to relieve asthma and respiratory disorders (p.p. 12 -13). Pub: Thorsons, London, UK. FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN YOGIC PRACTICES AND ANCIENT BREATHING TECHNIQUES.
Rick Hodder, M.D. (2001). Every Breath I Take. A guide to Living with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease where every breath is a struggle). Pub: Stoddart, Toronto, Canada. EXCELLENT MEDICAL INFORMATION.
Related Articles on line:
The Buteyko Breathing System, developed by Professor Konstantin Butekyo in the late 1950’s. Here is a great one that explains this amazing breathing technique that helps with so many illnesses and disorders but is most commonly known to assist those with asthma with a very high success rate: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/11/24/buteyko-breathing-method.aspx
The Huna Breath (Hawaiian natural healing) http://www.huna.org/html/deeper.html
DID YOU KNOW THAT ‘HU’ MEANS BREATH AND ‘WAI’ MEANS WATER? This article describes the beautiful huna breath that helps you to feel in natural flow with your breath.
Heather Price. (2010) The Magical Healing Breath. A free download. Go to this link and scroll down. http://www.shamanicpathandpractice.com/overview.html
 Graham, Tess. (2012) Relief from Snoring and Sleep Apnoea. A step by step guide to restful sleep and better health through changing the way your breath (p.p. 185-87). Pub: Penguin, Melbourne, Australia.