I have spent the last week or so touring about twenty schools teaching many different types of Yoga, Tao Chi, Kung Fu, Qi Gong, and freestyle martial arts. My thought was to return and write an interesting piece on the commonalities between each discipline and their core underlying systems. When I finished my journey, I found myself back where I have started from so many times – with the breath.
I cannot stress enough the importance of breath and the regular control of breath as a doorway to truly integrating your body with your mind and spirit. There is no technique I have studied or learned about from others that does not rely on the importance of breathing exercises to strengthen every aspect of the body, mind and spiritual connectivity of an individual. The following breathing exercises were born from Tibet in the early 1900’s by a geographer named Dingle, whose life was transformed by his experiences there and founded the science of Mentalphysics upon his return to the United States.
The Balancing Breath:
Sit in a cross-legged position with the spine straight. Blocking your right nostril with your right thumb, inhale steadily through your left nostril for a count of four. Hold the breath to a count of sixteen. Block off your left nostril with your left thumb, and exhale steadily through the right to a count of four. Perform the balancing breath four times, twice inhaling through the left nostril and twice inhaling through the right nostril.
The balancing breath balances the solar/lunar or positive/negative forces of the mind-body. This breath creates a balance of Yin and Yang by activating the energy channels which run from each nostril over the head and alongside the spinal column. The balancing breath creates harmony within and may be practised up to four times daily; upon rising, at noon, at dusk, and just prior to retiring for the night.
The Breath of Power:
Begin this breathing exercise by standing straight with your arms by your sides as in mountain pose. Inhale deeply and completely, filling yourself with the breath to your maximum capacity. Hold the breath as long as possible, working your way towards a full half-minute goal. Exhale powerfully through the mouth with your lips pursed. As you exhale, draw your lower abdomen in tightly, squeezing the breath out. When you have completed the exhalation, inhale lightly, exhale, and relax for a moment.
The breath of power may be performed up to seven times in a day and supercharges the mind-body. This breath saturates your entire system with prana, the energy of breath and life itself. The breath of power develops mental clarity, purifies the blood, and builds strong, powerful lungs.
Sit cross-legged with your spine straight, or on a chair or stool – again, make sure your spine is straight and relaxed. Place your hands on your thighs with the palms up. Lower your head and relax your shoulders. Inhaling through the nose, swing your head all the way back. The inhalation and the motion of the head should be short and forceful, but pay attention to your body and do not swing backward into an uncomfortable position. Exhale forcefully through the teeth as you swing your head forward, chin to your chest.
Repeat the breath and motions seven times without pausing between breaths. When finished, take a long, deep breath and relax for a moment. This constitutes one full round of the brain breath. This breath may be performed a maximum of seven full rounds, or forty nine breaths in total. The brain breath charges the brain with energy, increases blood flow to the base of the brain, and increases the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This breathing technique is reputed to stimulate the Medulla which is at the base of the brain and is the center for memory function. Through brain breathing, memory may be enhanced or partially to fully restored in some cases.
Aura building breath:
Stand perfectly straight with your arms by your sides. Inhale deeply through the nose, raise your arms straight out to the sides and then up above your head, placing the backs of your hands together. Your arms should be stretched as high as possible while holding your breath for several seconds. Exhale a quarter of your breath through pursed lips as you lower your arms to a 120° angle, exhale another quarter as your arms come to 90°, another quarter through 45°, and the final quarter of your exhale as your hands reach your sides again. The aura building breath may be performed a maximum of seven times, but it is recommended to start with three and work your way towards the goal of seven breaths.
The aura building breath expands and strengthens the aura, which is the energy field which surrounds and emanates from all of us. This aura acts as a protective and healing ‘bubble’ encompassing your being. As the aura becomes stronger and brighter, it filters out psychic static and negative vibratory energy. A strong and healthy aura heightens your sensitivity and makes you keenly aware of subtle changes in your environment.
The Invincible Breath:
Stand up straight with your feet several inches apart. Your arms should be held out straight in front of you, together and with the hands in fists so your knuckles are facing each other. Take a full, deep breath through the nose and hold it. Holding the breath, swing your arms straight back as far as they will go comfortably; then swing them forward again. Repeat this three times. As you complete the third repetition, exhale with your lips pursed and bring your arms to your sides and rest for a few breaths.
This completes one full breath, which may be repeated no more than seven times. As with the aura building breath, start out with three complete breaths and work your way towards the goal of seven breaths. The invincible breath stimulates the thymus gland, which lies at the center of the chest. Regular practice of this breath develops the immune system and builds a greater resistance to disease.
Next week we will finish the second five breaths and discuss the Mentalphysics institute and their teachings which originated from Tibet through a lineage of llama’s dating back a thousand years. Peace to you on your own journeys, and may the sunshine shine warmly on you as we enjoy the last weeks of our beautiful summer.