A Breathing Practice
We all breathe without thinking about it – but did you know we can find deeper relaxation by visualizing a few breaths?
Play with the following practice once a day for six weeks, allow it to become a daily ritual of self care that increases strength through internal relaxation.
Overview of Breathing Exercise
- Choose an object in the room with which to focus this exercise, and stand (or sit or lie) with feet hip-width apart, knees lightly bent in relaxation.
- Inhale slowly, deeply
- Become aware of how the inbreath “stretches” your core, when you relax and accept more breath
- Exhale, sending your breath to the object
- Inhale, returning your breath along the same path, back to you
- Visualize the process, think of sending and receiving energy with each breath
The following steps describe the exercise in more detail. It’s simple yet often creates resistance in the body, especially if we are used to tense muscles and stress postures. The key is gentleness and compassion for our body, all the miraculous work it does to keep us alive! If you are in the mood for health articles check out this one about sciatica pillows.
1. Inhale slowly and pause
Deeply, gently inhale; but don’t return to the exhale right away. As your belly rises allow the muscles around your core to relax; don’t resist being filled from within. Allow the inhaled breath to fill your core and pause. Hold the breath, relaxing for a moment. Notice how the diaphragm, or core, creates more space, into which you might inhale more.
As you play with holding the inhale into a relaxation that can accept more air, think of gaining in internal strength. Ironically, learning to relax the muscles is the true work. A real stretch. In pausing, relaxing, and finding more space for air we develop internal strength. Like cables that suspend bridges, they stretch, offering resilient tensile strength.
2. Choose an object
Look around you and choose an object within your line of sight, a place to focus on. A crack in the ceiling, a spot on the wall, or a tree works great. Imagine the path your breath will take, from you to the object. In step 3, this chosen object will “receive” the breath you “send” to it.
3. Send the breath to your chosen object as you exhale
Now that our core is filled with a long inhale, we can send our breath to the object we chose as we exhale. Visualize its unobstructed path through the air as we send our breath to the object. Through this controlled exhale (think laser, directed thought, or Spiderman string) we learn to direct our breath/energy.
4. Return the breath along the same path
Once our breath arrives at the object, we shift our breathing and return it back to our body’s core. Visualize bringing back your breath along the same path, using a controlled inhale. Just like sending the breath, we return the laser/ thought/ Spidey string, and maybe even feel it spin in our core, as a ball.
Like singing, delight in the movement of air – send and receive with a power that is strong, perhaps fast, but not forced nor coerced; experience a shared power that grows as it flows.
Repeat in a circular sequence of giving and receiving the breath, each time observing your body, your object, and the space between you and the object.
By deeply relaxing our muscles from the inside, we are moving energy, accepting and encouraging our breath.
Resistance in the Practice
Opening our core to deep relaxation though this breath exercise is a powerful practice. The resistance we feel to this breath exercise is real. Many of us were raised surrounded by stress, all we learned to experience was a shallow breath. It should not hurt, nor create light-headedness, so be gentle and offer yourself kind words. It can make us feel inexplicably uncomfortable; not pain, but vulnerability. Perhaps this is our lesson in this exercise, leading with our weakness makes us truly resilient.
Thoughts on Strength
One local Los Angeles Kung Fu teacher at the Sifu Manuel Marquez’s Shaolin Temple in Lomita once described the inbreath as a ball of energy that spins in the core of the body with the movement of breathing. This metaphor allows us to perceive energy moving in the body, long understood in Chinese healing practices to build strength.
Strength is often misconceived as big or heavy, like muscles or concrete. But one strong jolt and concrete cracks. Body builders are known to be at their weakest in competition. Mass can be deceiving, which is why it took so long to discover how to build structures with lots of windows: Buckminster Fuller, after walking along the beach, and wondering about foamy bubbles, designed the geodesic dome. He wondered how it could be that in the most violent of environments, where the ocean crashes on the shore, you see bubbles, spheres, built with nothing stronger than foam.
Everyone can access to a deep internal workout through exercising the breath.
- Choose a tree as your object, and over time, pay attention to of your breath path changes in relationship to the tree.
- Begin you workout with a few directed breaths, learned here. Add bliss to any workout by starting with breath training.
- I give you permission to feel vital! (This might not help you, but I’ve found that I often don’t feel like I have permission to do something wonderful)
- If you lift, perhaps consider this exercise as an inverse corollary to weightlifting. Think of the inbreath as expanding core musculatures, as strengthening. Instead of tensing the muscles to lift weights, you relax the muscles in order to expand them.
Sometimes it gets hard to breathe, and it’s not due to physical limitations.
Make yourself more resistant to cruelty, isolation, or that feeling of doom with a powerful “Spiderman” breath cycle. The benefits can be robust, especially when completed with regularity. Having a disciplined breath can add strength to your mind and body, and let you bring calm to any situation.
Guest Writer Bio
Melton Villanueva is a staff writer at findithealth.net. She holds a PhD from UCLA and is the author of The Aztecs at Independence. She practices Pamana Yoga, martial arts, permaculture and all things fungi.