This week I am at a breath work workshop in Lake Tahoe. My posts over the next four months might get a bit shorter/less edited as I will be traveling and working off of an iPad. Lake Tahoe is the first stop. Then eastern Mass to visit friends and family before heading off to India, Nepal, and Bali. So this is the beginning of a physical journey that I am also hoping will teach me many lessons and feed my soul. Anyone who is reading, your are welcome to come along for the ride.
This post I’ll talk a bit about breath work. First, from what I have seen, every embodied spirituality uses the breath as a tool of transformation. When I say embodied spirituality, I mean any spirituality that asks you to engage in spiritual practices designed to help you grow, rathe than just adopt a set of abstract beliefs.
The different types of breath work are as varied as the types of spiritual practices. Buddhists shamatah practice asks you to watch the breath. Tantra uses the breath to move energy from the base chakras up through the body to the higher ones. Indian pranayama practice has all parts of technical breaths, each with a different purpose.
With this wide variety, it is amazing how little most of us know about the breath, its possibilities, or how we typically breath. We know how the breath reacts to certain states. If we are scared, our breath gets shallow. When we are aroused and energy starts flowing through our system, the breath gets deep. When we feel light and free, it is easy to breath. When we are stressed, our breath gets tight. Breath mirrors energy.
So what happens when we consciously adopt certain patterns of breath? Can we use those breathing techniques to actively move energy? The answer is yes. We can actively breath into parts of our body that are tight or closed, and open them with our breath. The cool part is that you do not need to figure out what parts are closed ahead of time. Just breath deeply and the energy will move and take care of the rest. An open, deep, and flowing breath mirrors an open, grounded, and receptive energetic state.
I have had amazing experiences breathing. I have breathed and encountered great stores of rage I didn’t know I had. I have encountered pockets of joy and laughter. And deep sadness. And unexpected feelings of spiritual support and connection. Whatever the journey, I get up from a session and feel a huge amount of love and peace, within myself and for others. I feel alive and open.
If you want to check out what I am talking about for yourself, you can try a simple breathing session at home. (if that weirds you out, pause for a moment to consider what strange taboos exist around exploring our world and bodies.).
Put on any music you like–something relatively intense is good to begin, and then some mellow music for after. Lie down. Take a deep full breath using your diaphragm. Feel the breath enter the very bottom of your belly, all the way down, and then naturally rise to fill your chest. The inhale should be deep, and faster than normal. You should hear the sound of air rushing into your lungs. Then let your diaphragm go, without trying to control or force the exhale. The inhale should naturally lead to the exhale, and then back go inhale, without any pauses, in a circular motion. Keep your mouth and jaw relaxed. If you start to feel anxious, nauseous, angry, blessed out, it is all okay. Just keep breathing! Also, you may find you want to make noise or move your feet or hands. That is okay too. Do it and then come back to the breath. Also, if you are going to make noise try doing harmonic “tones” or notes rather than chaotic yells.
Go for about 10-20 minutes. You may experience tingling and tight hands–this is total normal and just the energy moving. When you are done, give yourself about 10 minutes of normal breath, lying down, integrating the energy. And let me know if you have any questions about this practice!
I’ll write more later about my personal experiences this week. I feel very happy to be exploring the world, my body, and my spirit. There is so much available to us if we just ask! And you get to meet some amazing people on your path.
Love and light,