State of harmony can be restored within the body

Breath is the most immaterial factor of our existence, being a link-manifestation of the mind/spirit that dwells in all. For this reason, breath is the natural and logical basis for meditation, the attempt to “enter into life.” Breath is the key to the cultivation of pure consciousness, it directly influences our physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual states. Inhibited breathing, which is sadly common, negatively affects these states.

Meditation on the breath is found in the spiritual practices of many religions, particularly in Buddhism, where it is known as Anapanasati, awareness of the inhaling and exhaling breaths, and is the meditation technique practiced and taught by Gautama the Buddha.

There are many techniques for relaxation on the market. A common theme with them all is that they relax the breath, leading to deeper, rhythmic breathing. Anyone who has done any kind of meditation or breathing exercises will know how peaceful and blissful deep rhythmic breathing can be. A simple example of this effect would be listening to classical music. The soothing tones quickly change our breathing. If you pay attention, you will notice that you will be breathing in a more relaxed, deeper way. Therefore, rather than bothering with various different rituals for relaxation, it is simpler to go straight to the breath and consciously cultivate peace and bliss.

The first step in healthy breathing is to become conscious of how we actually breathe. From the perspective of the world’s great spiritual traditions, our breath not only brings needed oxygen and other gases to the physical body, but it can also bring, when we are conscious of it, the finer energies (pranachi, and so on) needed to help nourish our higher bodies – the subtle body, causal body, and so on. Whatever we may believe about our soul and spirit, our breath, and how we breathe, is intimately connected with all aspects of our being. Breathing is one of the few bodily functions, which, within limits, can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously.

For example, in times of shock, to breathe consciously with the emphasis on exhalation expels the negative impact of the shock with the breath. It is often the case that the breath is held or swallowed when we go into shock and gasp. Through the exhalation, the circulation of energy is restored into a flow with the inhalation, so that a state of harmony can be restored within the body, which brings us back to our senses. It is as simple as breathing.

The breath can also be used consciously to energize and cleanse the human body, such as with the technique known as ‘The Breath of Fire’. The movement of the abdominal muscles powers this technique. The expansion and contraction of the muscles then expand and contract with each breath until a rhythm is felt and that rhythm takes over. It can be compared to the sound of an old engine chugging into gear again moving forward effortlessly after some steam has been built up.

“A child breathes naturally, and of course breathes more prana in, more chi in, and accumulates it in his belly. The belly is the accumulating place, the reservoir. Watch a child; that is the right way to breathe. When a child breathes, his chest is completely unaffected. His belly goes up and down. He breathes as if from the belly. All children have a little belly; that belly is there because of their breathing and the reservoir of energy.

“That is the right way to breathe; remember not to use your chest too much. Sometimes it can be used – in emergency periods. You are running to save your life; then the chest can be used. It is an emergency device. Then you can use shallow, fast breathing, and run. But ordinarily, the chest should not be used.

“And one thing to be remembered: the chest is meant only for emergency situations because it is difficult in an emergency situation to breathe naturally, because if you breathe naturally you remain so calm and quiet you cannot run, you cannot fight. You are so calm and collected you are Buddhalike.” 

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