Check your breathing in this moment. As you inhale or exhale what parts of your torso move with the breath, and what parts remains still? Does it feel like your muscles, and ribs yield to an incoming breath, or resist it? When you exhale do you relax? How long does it take to complete a full breath?
If you’re practiced in breathing you’ll be able to take a breath that almost instantly calms, refocuses, and energizes you. While it’s true that even unpracticed people can interrupt angry states by simply taking a breath, breathing practice develops a more profound capacity to shift states and attention.
From meditative arts to martial arts, singing, and athletic performance – breathing enhances performance. Looking at the sheer variety of techniques these arts employ you might wonder if there’s any “right way” to breathe?
For nearly half a century I’ve practiced techniques from a wide variety of disciplines, and I now prefer to teach the gentle Taoist methods that produce profound responses quickly.
We dwell in the realm between sky and earth. In the Chinese internal energy arts you’ll find practices designed to deepen our awareness or our human condition called the Marriage of Heaven and Earth. Their purpose is to draw in and integrate the sublime qualities above and below us.
Imagine that, like a tree, your roots extend deeply into the earth while your leaves draw in the heavenly energy of our star, the Sun. And imagine as you inhale, your rib cage and torso make more and more room for the sky inside your belly and chest. You do this by becoming soft and yielding to the breath, so there is no place in you that cannot accommodate and melt to an inspiration of breath.
On your exhale, continue to relax. Become still and alert, so the next breath enters an even more receptive body. If you stay in the moment each incoming breath will feel new and fresh with each inhale. You feel innocent.
If you learn how to integrate not only your torso but your limbs, hands, and feet into your breath you’ll breathe with your whole body.
The A.L.I.V.E. system that Michele teaches Dan will get you started on whole body breathing. In an upcoming post my friend and colleague Anat Baniel will also teach you how to make your body responsive to a complete breath.
Here are some audio instructions that will help you yield to the breath:
Please share your experiences with the breathing audio in the comments section.