J2P Monday: Every breath I take

Instructor de Kundalini yoga practicando Pranayama

Pranayama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the big healing experience, I’ve been really aware of my breath and how much more full and complete it feels.  Also want to remind you this is the last week to put up a post about women and/or the Divine Feminine as it relates to peace in the world.

Early in the this journey, the amazing vision therapist Dr. Harry Sirota, noted that I kept holding my breath.  During each of our long, careful appointments he’d keep reminding me to breathe, over and over.  I’d never realized how regularly I caught my breath and held it–all day every day.

Fortunately I was already taking yoga and completed pranayama class not that long before so I started a more regular and expanded pranayama practice.  Alternate nostril breathing was the centerpiece of my practice, but I also stayed conscious of taking full breaths during yoga practice as well as checking in off and on all day and taking a series of full breaths.  Some years later I added the Eight Key Breaths as well.

The breathing practice eventually cured the held breath habit and I became increasingly adept at taking long slow breaths.  While nowhere near the level of expert yogis, at the height of my practice I could slow my breath down to one per minute.  In spite of being able to breathe that deeply I often felt the air didn’t reach an area of my chest; in the center from just above the base of the breast bone to just under the collar bone.  After practice I could feel lots of prana flowing but realized it did not flow freely throughout my body (too many blocked areas to enumerate).

Osunnike worked quite a while on that area of my chest (without my having mentioned it) and one of the biggest releases came from there.  Since then I am very aware that my breath fills the whole chest cavity now.  After breathing practice I tune in and feel breath/prana flowing more readily through most of my body (still have a few muscles issues working out).

It has me thinking about life and flow.  The habit of holding breath is pretty common and most Americans breathe very shallowly.  Muscle tightness is rampant, so even when people do breathing practice, the flow of prana is often impeded.  As I’ve mentioned before, how you breathe is a key factor in your ability to be/feel peaceful.

So I dreamed up a little exercise for you to explore your breath.

Either spend 15 minutes doing Full Breaths (see this post for instructions) or do alternate nostril breathing, which you can learn here:

Once you have the technique, add counting.  You might want to start out just inhaling and exhaling to the same count.  Once you have practiced a bit (or if you already do breathing practices), try to exhale twice as long as you inhale.  Eventually, holds with breath in and breath out can be added, but for our purposes, just try to have nice long breaths with either even inhalation and exhalation or exhale twice as long (i.e. if you count to 10 on inhale, count to 20 on exhale).  Practice this for 15 minutes.

When you finish the breathing practice, lie down and concentrate your attention on following your breath through your body after every inhale.  Do your abdomen and lungs feel completely full?  Can you follow the flow of energy down your legs and arms?  Up into your head?  Can you feel it move through your neck?

You might want to take notes on what you find so you can track progress.  If you can’t feel your breath move throughout your body, you know that you are limiting your ability to hold a space of peace. Stretching exercises, body work, pranayama practice, emotional release, etc. are all means of opening the flow.  What are you willing to do?  If you’re resistant, explore that because resistance to healing whatever blocks peace tells you something about your beliefs about peace.

I feel that one of the most important things you can do to find peace is to work on getting your body to the place where energy flows freely.

If you want to participate in posting for peace, don’t forget to add this link: https://bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/j2p-monday-the-women/ (so I get a pingback and others can see it in the comments list) and tag it with J2PChallenge and Journey2Peace.

Check out benefits of pranayama practice:

Pranayama and its healing power

Pranayama by Maitreya7 on Photobucket

Here’s my AlphabeThursday post for the letter “P”.

Pranayama, or breathing, practice is a key element of the Kriya tradition in yoga. Since my teacher was a disciple of Goswami Kriyananda, of the Kriya lineage (that of Paramahansa Yogananda), he taught us a number of breathing practices during hatha classes. I loved it from the beginning and took a pranayama class at the Temple of Kriya Yoga to learn more.

For many years my main practice was alternate nostril breathing, which I used before every meditation as a means to calm my highly stressed and tension-filled body enough to meditate. I used some of the others and along the way added holotropic breathing and the Eight Key Breaths to the repertoire.

Eventually my issues with kundalini led to my acupuncturist banning me from all breathing practice. For some years, although I experimented periodically, I stayed away from pranayama. Eventually I realized I could again practice without having the room spin and/or an inner ear imbalance. By that time a lot of the tight muscles had released and the many years of chronic fatigue left me more concerned about energy.

I began doing the Eight Key Breaths daily and watching them build my energy, not only in terms of having more chi but I could follow the expanded energy as it pushed on taut muscles and helped to create more opening. I’ve since added some kundalini yoga practices that use breath of fire extensively and that has added to growing energy and the faster break-down of the final vestiges of my major muscle issues.

Prana is the vital force energy that moves through the body with the breath. Every breathing practice assists the vital flow of prana. Because breathing practices cause you to inhale and exhale completely and in an even pattern they have a huge impact on stress. A great deal of tension in the body relates to uneven and shallow breathing habits and every breathing practice I’ve ever done has created calm.

You can do different kinds of pranayama to create different outcomes beyond calm. Breath of fire is energizing. Bee breath can help you sleep. Alternate nostril breathing causes you to breathe equally through both nostrils which helps create union, so it’s not only calming but assists in meditation. There are many more.

It’s free and you can accomplish so much self healing just by working with your breath. Lots of Americans have patterns of very shallow breathing, most are taught to suck the stomach in on inhalation and let it out on exhalation which is the opposite of natural, healthy breathing. Lots of people also have patterns of inhaling and holding the breath a few beats before letting it go. Breathing is so unconscious for most of us that we aren’t even aware of those patterns. It was a very astute eye doctor (who worked with the eyes as part of an emotional mapping process) who pointed out to me that I continually held my breath. Check into your own breathing habits. Give yourself the gift of pranayama. You’ll be surprised how many other things become better.