Last week I ended my blog by saying there is much more to breathing than expelling and intaking air. I daresay you are respectful of people who practise yoga and in particular Pranayama -yogic breathing, which has the purpose of purifying the energy channels in the body, relaxing the nervous system, and strengthening the body, mind, and emotional immunity.
There are three stages of Pranayama as instructed in the Yoga Sutras. Inhalation (Puraka), retention or suspension of the breath (Kumbhaka), and exhalation (Rechaka). Usually practised by one nostril at a time, though it can be practised using both nostrils simultaneously by partially contracting the glottis. The time periods of these stages can be varied to increase the benefits of practise.
Breathing in this manner is usually carried out sitting in a lotus posture, or in movements designed to increase and project BodyMind awareness. And you must be consciously controlling these actions. For sure you can’t properly practise them when you are half asleep after waking, or thumping the pavements on the way to work, driving, or threading your way through crowds in a busy shopping arcade.
But breathe you must -right?
We can’t help ourselves, we do it unconsciously most of time. Now -how would you like to gain the benefits the yogic sutras speak of on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis in a way that doesn’t require you to stop the daily rush of life?
Here’s how -but first you need to know what the function of breath is all about. It begins in the womb of your mother as a pulse activating and developing every part of the BodyMind. It’s a primal function which corresponds to the natural Earthen world our matter and mind is made from -and of course, it is also influenced by your mother’s BodyMind, which whilst it instinctively blends with the natural order of development can also influence the character you create of yourself. When you are born and start breathing a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water, you are immediately connected and influenced by the outside world environment that ultimately govern your perceptive nature. The harmony experienced in the womb is lost and the instinct of survival is born. The uniqueness of your individual self has one overriding purpose -the restoration of harmony.
Easier said than done, eh?
In fact, common knowledge would say it’s impossible. The best we can hope for are periods of relative calm, moments of unity, and the retrospective awareness of harmony, which only goes to show we don’t live consciously aware of our actions.
The ancient masters knew this was our common lot and sought ways in which the primal function of breath could be restored to influence and harmonise our perceptive world. They discovered sound and colour are interrelated and the breath we unconsciously enable encompasses a wide range of frequencies. The higher the frequency the less form/time condition the breath has -the more colour, shape, and movement it experiences. You’ve read about yogis who allowed themselves to be buried alive, and dug up none the worse, days later -yes?
What they were doing were breathing internally -not only a physically able function, but they also invoked the Vach.
The Vach is best described in common English as the sound within the sound -in other words they raised the frequency of breathing until its time/form expression was practically stationary. In today’s world we acknowledge there is a synthesis between sound and colour -we call it Chromesthesia in which sound involuntarily evokes an experience of colour, shape, and movement.
Relax! I’m not suggesting a practise that requires you to dig a hole in your garden, bury yourself, to experience harmony.
What I am suggesting is this – for breathing to provide benefits you must take notice of what the three actions of breath do. Make the unconscious conscious.
Allow me to explain how you can make that happen.
Initially take notice of how your breathing operates. It has three parts, in-pause-out. Depending on how you are exerting yourself and/or emotionally and mentally focussed on something, the three parts of breath will vary in their time signature. The more you are mentally and emotionally maintaining a focus on something the inward breath will be shorter than the outward breath and the pause will hardly be noticed. You may even find that is happening as you re-read what I’m writing you about -it’s a sign of heightening stress. If you are physically exerting yourself the inward and expelled breath will be longer, and unless you are puffing from the activity, will find the middle pausing breath will be longer. When you stop doing the activity the middle breath will lengthen, the intaking breath will shorten before the outer breath does.
What this tells us is this -shortened inward breathing stresses the mind, which in turn incapacitates the body. Longer inward breathing which can come from exercising or physically working an activity naturally ceases when the body demands rest. If you work yourself up mentally and emotionally during the activity the benefit the body naturally manages is lost -because it’s being ‘told’ how to behave.
The breath ‘key’ is the middle or pausing part -if we can manage that the entire BodyMind benefits.
Earlier in this piece I told you what air is chemically -your lungs are never completely devoid of air comprising majorly of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and water. When we exhale, the outward breath composition contains more carbon dioxide and less oxygen. If you are unduly stressing the volume of oxygen ingested (the energy giver) is lessened, which has a domino-like effect causing the unnecessary stress to become resident. The middle breath loses its managing role, benefits are reduced, and problems arise.
Stress is a necessary part of our energy making capability -essential to the well-being of our entire BodyMind -undue stress is the No.1 causal killer!
Every type of illness, however it may be defined to have arisen develops from undue stress -and the ‘key’ that prevents reminds you of its presence 24-7. Get your breathing right, or in the very least make it more efficient than it currently is, and your health overall will improve.
In this world where birth right freedoms are being suppressed by actions intended to defeat viral infections nothing is more important than your health. If you breathe right the immune system will continue to strengthen -even in the over 60’s where science tells us it begins naturally to weaken.
It’s not difficult -you don’t have to be brainy -you just need to modify your habits!
In my next post I’ll show you exactly how to do it.
The poem I share with you this week walks back in time aware of moments when harmony ruled, and time did not govern my senses.
The Seize of Time
Walk with me through the green gate
past the ivy clad barn, the rusted plough,
there let us take shade from the sun
under the spread of the sycamore tree.
Nearby, the gnats cloud the sedge pond
buzz in harmony, chicken’s coop,
geese cackle, and the farm dog barks.
The clack of a hand-turned butter churn
can be heard from the house, the smell
of baking bread wafts on the breeze.
In the far wet-field, revs of a tractor
sound as we sit midst forget-me-not’s,
coriander, dandelion, thistles, and
milkwort, mosses, and warm grass.
Laughing, and making daisy chains.
Out of sight beyond the fields
a distant bell toll seizes time.
Moments that will never age
forever live –of love’s breath
that never shall or can possess.